“Haykakan Zhamanak” reports that the National Security Service (NSS) has arrested a former head of the Armenian Defense Ministry’s construction department in an investigation which it links with the 2008 post-election events in the country. A ministry spokesman is quoted as saying that the official is suspected of disclosing “state secrets.” The paper links that with its recent revelations that former Defense Minister Mikael Harutiunian set up in February 2008 a special military task force to help suppress opposition protests against alleged vote rigging.
“Hayots Ashkhar” dismisses criticism of Armenia’s democracy and human rights record made by various international watchdogs such as Freedom House. The pro-presidential paper says Western nations have only “an imitation of democracy.” It says things could not be otherwise because an “unmanageable democracy” would inevitably degenerate into a totalitarian order.
“Golos Armenii” says it is wrong to attribute low turnout in Sunday’s parliamentary by-election to the New Year’s and Christmas holidays. The paper notes that the constituency where the vote took place was long controlled by pro-opposition businessman Khachatur Sukiasian. It says the vast majority of local voters stayed at home on Sunday simply because it does not support opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian and his loyalists. “This is probably the most vivid result of that election,” concludes the paper.
Speaking to “Aravot,” political pundit Armen Badalian likewise calls the opposition showing in the vote a serious setback. He argues that the opposition HAK was defeated by a virtually unknown candidate in one of its strongholds. “That means that the opposition is not strong anymore,” he says. “Secondly, the society is indifferent as their participation in the election involving one of the top opposition figures was extremely weak … If the public is unable to make Nikol Pashinian a parliament deputy in the center of Yerevan it will certainly be unable to resist concessions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
“One or one-and-a-half years ago the [Armenian National] Congress could easily rally 100,000 people, whereas now it can hardly gather 20,000 people,” writes “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun.” “Has anyone asked themselves there those 80,000 citizens have gone? They have certainly not left Armenia. Nor have they changed their opinion about the authorities. Those people are really unhappy with the Congress’s political activities.” The pro-opposition paper says this is so because President Serzh Sarkisian has managed to create a “situation where any active opposition move could help external forces and deal a deadly blow to …the vital interests of Armenia and Karabakh’s future.” This is why, it says, the opposition has acted “much more cautiously” since the start of the Turkish-Armenian “football diplomacy.”