Armenian press review (March 3 - 9)

Armenian press review (March 3 - 9)

The draft Electoral Code, as well as ongoing structural and personnel changes in the government are in the focus of the Armenian media. The press writes about what to expect from the appointment of the former head of the presidential surveillance service, Hovhannes Hovsepyan, as the head of the State Revenue Committee, guesses what is behind dismissals in police and the National Security Service of Armenia, and wonders why the price of gasoline rose at the country's gas stations again without any reason.

Newspapers comment on the draft Electoral Code published in Armenia. The Zhamanak newspaper writes: "It turns out that the Armenian authorities sent one variant to Venice and another to Armenian citizens. That is, in fact, it's a double play. It's possible that the authorities are trying to maneuver through this game and to "approve" some dangerous or undesirable for public, but important for them thesis through this maneuver, this duality. It's possible that the project sent was perceived strictly negatively in Venice and the Armenian authorities were quick to sent them another one, without waiting for a harsh assessment from Venice, and to prevent a certain tense atmosphere. And, finally, it is also not excluded that the Armenian authorities were influenced by a public clamor that society would know about the new Electoral Code from Venice instead of Yerevan."

The editor-in-chief of Aravot states on the same subject: "At first glance, the opposition's fears on the Electoral Code were appropriate. There will be a further opportunity to talk about it. But now the more important thing is that the document, which is not known to the Armenian public, which wasn't discussed with the opposition political forces, even in draft form, was firstly presented to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which didn't consider it as a 'draft', as it decided to publish it. It turns out that at first we learn about our drafts from a website of one of the units of the international organization."

The Chorrord Ishkhanutyun newspaper questions the sincerity of the authorities in the development of the 'good' Electoral Code. "In fact, the authorities initially wanted to present a bad document and they succeeded brilliantly." "It is unclear why they presented such a long text. They could wrote only three items: 1. The ruling party is doing everything to get a majority; 2. If it fails to get the required percentage immediately, then it will get a second chance; 3. Journalists and observers are not allowed, unless they are specifically invited by the state bodies," the newspaper says ironically.

The editor-in-chief of Aravot writes: "When during the development of the new Electoral Code our talented lawyers wrote in the discussed paper that only eight observers and journalists can be at a polling station, I immediately understood that I have a question. Whether a requirement will be put that only 8 cameras must work at the moment when the President or any other head of state in the future will fulfill his civic duty in school number 24 named after Spandaryan? Or when the same lawyers write that an observer must have an invitation from the Armenian President, the government, the Parliament or the CEC to monitor the elections? I immediately imagined how these authorities send their invitations to Artur Sakunts or Levon Barseghyan. Of course, it would be very desirable for the authors of the bill that the elections were covered only by journalists acceptable to the authorities, and only pro-government NGOs monitor the voting process. But I agree with the already-expressed view that "extreme" items were included in the project to withdraw them eventually, which will be presented as a big 'concession' to society."

The Chorrord Ishkhanutyun newspaper notes in connection with the ongoing structural changes in the government: "Serzh Sargsyan once again began to disassemble and reassemble the control system like a Rubik's Cube. Only 10 days ago he divided the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations into two new bureaus, yesterday he separated the tax and customs service from the Ministry of Finance, and tomorrow or the day after, he maybe will have a headache after another wedding, and he decides that he should split the Ministry of Education and Science or the Ministry of Transport and Communications and so on. And, of course, society does not receive any justifications. Ministries, for example, are divided on the same basis, on which two years ago they were united: more efficient management. And since there is no other justification, social and political minds conduct a deep analysis and concludes that Serzh Sargsyan is doing it with the sole purpose of strengthening his own position in the power system. And it is quite true, because there is simply no other explanation."

The press continues to comment on the appointment of the former head of the presidential surveillance service, Hovhannes Hovsepyan, as the head of the State Revenue Committee (SRC). Zhamanak reports: "Serzh Sargsyan, in fact, states that the State Revenue Committee will be under his direct presidential control. This is also evidenced by the fact that Serzh Sargsyan on his behalf reassured SRC employees that there will be no staff reductions. At the same time, Sargsyan said it won't happen if employees are willing to work with diligence and zeal to face new requirements and challenges. and calls. And according to Serzh Sargsyan, challenges are the collection of taxes and improving the business environment. That is, in fact, the SRC was ordered to form the budget, not causing discontent among businessmen. Is it possible? Of course, it is possible, if the SRC will rip off, in fact, a 'virgin skin' of big business to form the budget, instead of ripping off small and medium-sized businesses' skin, as it used to do."

The Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper also draws attention to the fact that Serzh Sargsyan personally presented the new SRC head to his future subordinates. "The public has always perceived the State Revenue Committee as one of the most corrupt government bodies, and Sargsyan has always entrusted the leadership of this body to his trustees. The SRC has full information about the real financial position of the oligarchs and these oligarchs can conceal their real incomes only with the SRC's consent... In other words, the SRC acts as a so-called 'black-treasurer' of the ruling clan, which also collects the files on oligarchs. In this sense, Sargsyan's care about the SRC is more than natural," the publication notes.

The Chorrord Ishkhanutiun writes "Answering the question how it will be difficult for the Dashnaktsutyun party (ARFD) to work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edward Nalbandian, whom they previously demanded be dismissed, the deputy of the Dashnak party Mikael Manukyan said: " I assume that changes are also expected here. Taking into account the fact that the Dashnaks usually understand by the word "change", but it is necessary to assume that in the near future the Ministry will be divided into the Ministry of ''foreign'' and the Ministry of "affairs". A new department will be established at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The General Directorate of "national requirements and ethnographic songs and dances" and the chief of the department will be appointed a member of the Dashnaktsutyun party. Although speaking about changes, the Dashnak deputy meant that the Dashnaktsutyun party will change its position and the "Zurich retreat" will be renamed "the Zurich battle". In any case, Edward Nalbandian should grow a mustache and start learning the lyrics of the song "Get up, Dashnak Dro''.

"Former press secretary of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) MP Vahan Babayan who stated that he was leaving the party ranks, was not the only one who accused the chairman of the PAP Naira Zohrabyan of making improper political decisions of a fundamental nature,'' the Zhamanak reports. The responsible person of Prosperous Armenia who works with territorial structures, Abraham Manukyan, also openly worked against the chairman of the party. He said that Zohrabyan is a pathological opposition figure and he is leads the party to collapse. According to extant sources, Manukyan is dealing with consolidation of unsatisfied people in order to leave the ranks of the party," the Zhamanak informs.

"The head of the Armenian Police, Vladimir Gasparyan, has started personnel purges. According to his order, the Chirac police chief Grisha Amirkhanyan, who has been in this position only a year, the police chief of Kotayk, Serob Harutyunyan, the head of the police department of Aragatsotn, Grigor Grigoryan, and the chief of police department of Yerevan's Kanaker-Zeytun district, Avetik Abrahamyan, were dismissed," the Zhoghovurd reports.

"According to reports, the reason for their dismissal was the presence at the birthday party of one of the deputies, which was attended by the well-known representative of the criminal world Tevos Safaryan. If a police officer, "shares his bread" with a representative of the criminal authority he cannot perform the duties properly assigned to him by the law. We should also note that the deputy chief of the Tumanyan police department of the Loriyskaya district, Ashot Titanyan, was also dismissed from his post. This information was confirmed by the press service of the police. According to our sources, the reason for his dismissal was due to the fact that Titanyan played in the Shangrila Casino, which belongs to the former leader of the PAP, Gagik Tsarukyan," the edition notes.

The director of the National Security Service of Armenia, Georgi Kutoyan, has started a "personnel purge", the Zhoghovurd newspaper reports: "According to our data, the first deputy director of the National Security Service of Armenia, Major-General Grant Yepiskoposyan, will be dismissed from his post in the near future. According to rumors, other generals of the management team of NSS are about to be dismissed.

Yepiskoposyan's dismissal is likely to be a signal to others that it is time to retire. Zhoghovurd predicted such a development, considering the fact that Serzh Sargsyan has put the Armenian National Security Service generals before the fact, assigning a person who had never had any relation to this system as the head.

If the generals don't accept the idea that a young person who was an ordinary functionary a few days ago and whose age is about to be same age as the generals' children, in this case they should resign. According to rumors, the generals with a sufficiently serious past chose the second option," the author of the publication informs.

The Haykakan Zhamanak writes: "The price of petrol has increased in Armenia again by 10 drams. In particular, 1 liter of gasoline costs 380 drams now, while at the beginning of the week its cost was 370 drams. The increase in the petrol price will be linked with a slight increase in oil prices in the world market, but it cannot be a justification. Earlier, the chairman of the State Commission for the protection of economic competition, Artak Shaboyan, "explaining" why the sharp drop in oil prices in Armenia doesn't lead to the decrease the cost of gasoline, said that the impact of changes on oil prices of gasoline is too small. Now Shaboyan should explain why the increase in oil prices leads to such a quick growth of gasoline prices in Armenia. We are looking forward to an answer to the question."

The Zhamanak reports: "The Central Bank of Armenia has recently published information about money transfers to Armenia in 2015. Accordingly, according to the Central Bank, a decline of transfers at the level of about $0.5 billion or 23% in comparison with 2014 was registered... Half a billion is a huge sum for the economy of Armenia and we can imagine the impact of a reduction in transfers on the economy of Armenia."

The Armenian police are actively interested in the financial flows of the South-Caucasian Railway, and the company was inspected about 10 days ago, Zhamanak reports, citing its own sources. "The results of the audits will be announced in the near future. It should be noted that the inspections were carried out due to our publication about the assignment of $120,000 allocated for the re-branding of the company,'' the publication reports.

"The government of Armenia has finally announced a program of spending of a loan amounting to $30 million, allocated by the World Bank. The majority of the loan, about 70%, will be given to the Yerevan Central Heating and Power Plant and the rest to the Atomic Power Station," Haykakan Zhamanak reports. 

"But the most remarkable thing are a few facts in this program that really disappoint. It turns out that our businesses' power systems have accumulated huge debts without any connections to their activity. In particular, the Yerevan TPP and Vorotan Cascade of the hydro-electric power station is in a very difficult financial situation. We gave approximately $100 million to the Nairit plant and CJSC Vanadzor Chemical Industry. The government has taken loans using the names of these companies with high interest rates and paid out wages to employees of the Nairit plant and CJSC Vanadzor chemical industry.

It difficult to say if the entire amount was directed to reach this goal. The interest is accumulating every hour daily on this $100 million. About $600 thousand was added to the sum in two months. Other details of the program will be discussed soon," the newspaper reports.

"After the abolition of sanctions, Iran has gradually started to resume trade relations with the world,'' the Aravot newspaper reports. "After analyzing the press in the Persian language, we noticed a remarkable fact: during the last period of time almost all of the leading Iranian mass media actively covered the recent visit of Assistant Prime Minister Tigran Karapetyan to the neighboring country. According to Iranian sources, specific practical steps were discussed during the meetings and talks held with representatives of private and public sectors of the tourism industry of the neighboring country. The Armenian-Iranian tourist environment will improve as much as possible to implement projects as soon as possible. A qualitatively new system of infrastructure will be created, which is needed to ensure cooperation in the sphere of tourism and culture, which should correspond to the long-term friendly relations between the two countries and peoples. Publications of Iranian mass media about the meetings are encouraging, and their effectiveness can be assessed in the near future,'' the newspaper reports.

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