Opposition leader Aram Manukian assures “Zhamanak” that the number of “rebellious” Armenians opposed to the government has risen by at least 30 percent in the last few months. “The opposition is not as responsible for that as the authorities are,” he says. Manukian says the public has finally realized that the authorities are to blame for the March 1 violence in Yerevan and that opposition supporters arrested thereafter are innocent. He also claims that the opposition desire for regime change is a “manifestation of patriotism.”
But Gagik Melikian, a parliament deputy from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), tells “Hayots Ashkhar” that the root cause of political tensions in the country is former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s efforts to return to power “at any cost.” He insists that only 20 percent of the electorate backed Ter-Petrosian during the February 2008 presidential election. “That is why they [the opposition] opted for the path of a coup d’etat, which engendered a public confrontation,” says Melikian. He says the political situation has “substantially stabilized” in the past year, suggesting that Ter-Petrosian has started “a new decade of silence.”
“Azg” says that the upcoming opposition rally in Yerevan could attract a “new stratum of disaffected people.” “This because of the [economic] crisis and our slow response to it,” says the paper. “Plus the conundrum of political prisoners.” It wonders if President Serzh Sarkisian will move to address that problem in the coming weeks.
“Aravot” is puzzled by “the mechanism of cooperation” between the Armenian government and the Council of Europe. “Either our officials are very cunning and manage to fool the Europeans for years, or the Europeans are extremely naïve, or the two sides cut some deals unknown to us,” the paper muses in an editorial. It is just as bemused by a Tuesday statement by two officials from the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), John Prescott and Georges Colombier, expressing concern about the authorities’ refusal to allow the March 1 opposition rally. “Our delegation goes to Strasbourg [in January] and takes a written oath to amend articles 225 and 300 of the Criminal Code in a way that will result in the release of the political prisoners,” notes the paper. “Then it comes to Yerevan and toughens these articles so that the political prisoners stay in prison longer. Either Prescott and Colombier are kindergarten kids and don’t understand that, or … we don’t know what to say.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” claims that the government and the Central Bank have warned Armenian commercial banks that the national currency, the dram, will weaken against the U.S. dollar by more than 30 percent in the next two months. The paper says the authorities want the banks to take exchange rate fluctuation into account and avoid any “surprises” in their operations.