Armenian Press Review (February 4-10)

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Armenian Press Review (February 4-10)

The issue of a possible coalition of the ruling Republican Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation ‘Dashnaktsutyun’ is still in the focus of the Armenian media. The press writes about how the infighting in Prosperous Armenia party will end, speculates on who will take the post of the Armenian Ambassador to Russia, and wonders why, with an unprecedented crop of vegetables in the last year, the price of potatoes in the country rose by a third in a month.

The newspapers write about a possible coalition of the ruling Republican Party and the ARFD. "As a result of long negotiations between the RPA and ARFD, the latter got what it wanted. According to the newspaper, the ARFD will receive three ministerial portfolios in the government: the positions of the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education and Science, and the Minister of Territorial Administration, from which the EMERCOM will be separated again. Tonight the first the meeting of the Council will take place, then of the executive body of the RPA. If nothing unexpected happens at the last minute and neither of the sides changes its mind on a particular issue, then tonight a format of new cooperation between the RPA and the ARFD will be announced and the transfer of the latest of the above-mentioned three ministerial portfolios," Haykakan Zhamanak writes

The newspaper '168 Zham' writes: "The representatives of the ARF ‘Dashnaktsutyun’ in recent days, after accidentally or deliberately touching the RPA and receiving a blow, have become so tame that in the literal sense of the word they have begun to blame the media for the fact that they represent their selfless dedication to the Republican Party in the name of the homeland by bargaining over positions, while what is going on between the two parties is in fact no more than political bargaining in the truest sense of the word.

For playing a weighty part in the collapse of the opposition Quartet and Troika in the last year, and then, not only for supporting the constitutional amendments, and the fraud committed in the course of their implementation, Dashnaktsutyun requires compensation from Serzh Sargsyan. This is probably normal, although this is not subject to any political logic. But it is abnormal when this primitive bargaining is being represented to the public as a step by a political force, concerned about the problems of the nation and the country, which is supposed to make sacrifices in the name of the state and the people," the author concludes.

In the newspaper ‘Hraparak’ we read: "Although yesterday the representatives of the Republican Party were not aware of the expected extraordinary meeting in the National Assembly (Parliament) of Armenia, the government assured that within the next week an extraordinary meeting will be convened for the approval of the structural changes, particularly the branch of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency Management, so the latter be transferred to the Ministry of the ARF (David Lokyan) within the coalition, which will be formed soon.

"According to our information, next week the Republican Party is preparing to hold not only a meeting of the Executive Body, but the RPA Council, after which the coalition will be officially announced,’’ the newspaper writes.

The deputies of the parliamentary faction of the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) have been accepted in a statement by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan, in which he announced the decision that this political force will not be part of the new ruling coalition, the newspaper ‘Haykakan Zhamanak’ writes, referring to sources close to the PAP.

"On Thursday evening a meeting of the Executive Body of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia will be held, where the answers to many questions will be given. In particular, as we know, in the negotiations between the RPA and ARF Dashnaktsutyun the parties came to the following decision: the ARFD will be transferred to the Ministry of the Economy, which will be headed by MP Artsvik Minasyan, the ARF will also get the Ministry of Territorial Administration, which will be the result of its separation from the Ministry of Emergency Situations. The new Minister will be David Lokyan. The highest circles of the RPA do not exclude that the appointments could be made as early as next Friday,’’ the Haykakan Zhamanak  newspaper writes.

Continuing the theme, the newspaper Chorrord Ishkhanutiun writes that new internal squabbles have started in the PAP. As the newspaper’s sources insist, a group of the party members, in particular, Vahan Babayan, Mikayel Melkumyan and the entrepreneurial wing, is trying to process the resignation of the chairman of the PAP, Naira Zohrabyan.

"The day before, in different territorial structures of the PAP they began holding meetings on the subject, even trying to start collecting signatures against the leader of the party. The reason for the discontent with Zohrabyan’s activity became the decision of the PAP to refuse to join a coalition with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia. As you know, during the whole period after the support of the draft constitutional reform, the representatives of the PAP  hoped to receive positions from the RPA, periodically giving interviews on the subject and wedging themselves in the negotiations between the two political forces. Moreover, in recent days within the party there was an active discussion on this subject. But, in the end, the point of view of Naira Zohrabyan to refuse to participate in the new ruling coalition won, and now those party members whose expectations were not met.are  trying to take revenge by organizing the collection of signatures," the publication says.

According to the Zhamanak newspaper, Ara Abrahamyan decided to abandon the idea of ​​creating a party after a visit to the presidential residence and thoroughly talked with the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan. "But Abrahamyan is now at the forefront of the creation of a party, the ex-Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said, openly declaring that he intends to create a party,’’ the newspaper writes.

During the entire period of his premiership, Hovik Abrahamyan, according to rumors, was hoping to take control of all the financial flows in the country and corresponding structures, but he was initially deprived of such an opportunity, the newspaper ‘Irates de facto’ reports

"And once again he wanted the best, but it turned out as always, for the ‘’calling’’ of Abrahamyan the Ministry of Finance was merged with the customs and tax structures, the creation of the super ministry would have given him an opportunity to realize his childhood dream, however, over time, Hovik Abrahamyan was forced to understand that he was not controlling not only his super ministry, but the economy as a whole and anything at all. He had to admit that the ‘finances are singing love songs’ in the literal and figurative sense, and all the ‘financiers’, as one, are controlled by the President of the country,’’ Irates de facto reports.

Armenia's Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharyan will soon be appointed as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Russian Federation. Such rumors are circulating in the government circles, the newspaper Zhoghovurd reports.

"Now the post of the Armenian Ambassador to Russia is held by Oleg Yesayan. We have tried to clarify the information on the possible appointment of Shavarsh Kocharyan as the chief of the mission in Russia from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, from where we received the following reply to our written request: ‘’In diplomatic practice it is not accepted to disclose information about a possible change of ambassadors, the veracity of the information or the possible candidates for the post of ambassador until the country's leader's decree is issued, which must accredit it. It is incorrect for the host country, and the one that carries out the accreditation. The appointment of an ambassador to a country requires a certain procedure "That means, in the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the rumor spread was not refuted only because the question of ‘correctness’ may arise, when the appointment of the specified person is in the process," the publication sums up.

One of the likely candidates for the post of Director of the National Security Service under the Government of Armenia is the former Chief of Police, Alik Sargsyan, who is now an advisor to the President, the newspaper ‘Zhamanak’ writes, referring to its sources. "However, Sargsyan speaks against the appointment of the Prime Minister, Hovik Abrahamyan, because between them there have been differences over the years," the publication adds.

The negotiations with the Russian authorities about the price of gas supplied to Armenia, apparently, have not produced the desired result. The context of the statements made by senior Armenian officials gives rise to such suspicions, Haykakan Zhamanak writes.

"In particular, yesterday at the start of a cabinet meeting the Prime Minister of Armenia Hovik Abrahamyan raised the tariffs for gas. Paraphrasing what was said in ‘usual language’, he said: "Dear Gazprom-Armenia, because of the high gas prices, you get super-profits, but consumption decreases. Make the price of gas a little lower and consumption will increase, and you will continue to receive your profits. Go, tell their leaders in Gazprom that our offer is this – let them make the price of gas a little lower ... "

What is remarkable is that the Prime Minister was talking about this publicly for a second time, when all the same  can be said to ‘Gazprom’, or in telephone conversations with the heads of ‘Gazprom-Armenia’. Firstly, by this the Prime Minister wants to show the media that the government is taking steps to reduce the price of gas, and, secondly, to show the Russian side that appeals for support to the public forms the public demand in this regard. It is difficult to say how it will work. Just note that Russia supplies gas to Armenia for $165, and $180 for Europe,’’ the author of the publication reminds.

The Armenian government resolved to build a new thermal power plant in Vanadzor. A notable point of this program is that the authorities have not referred to the potential investors they hope for, Zhoghovurd writes.

"It is reported only that traces of the  funds required for the construction of a new thermal power plant are going to Great Britain to the Ambassador Armen Sargsyan. However, at the same time, the UK does not make much effort to ban the circulation of the ‘dirty’ money on its territory. This means that no one can rule out that the construction of the new thermal power plant will actually be implemented by Armenian officials, who through offshore companies seek a way to invest and to legitimize the amount of money stolen from the state budget. This option would possibly be excluded only in one case, if the government  makes it clear who owns the money that should be spent on the program, and from where they have received it," the newspaper writes.

The only land route connecting Armenia with its main economic partner Russia has been closed to transport for at least two weeks, Haykakan Zhamanak writes.

"This concerns the Upper Lars checkpoint on the border between Georgia and Russia: the road is open only to passenger cars. Until yesterday, even these vehicles were only allowed to drive through the area of Upper Lars with snow chains, and this restriction was only lifted yesterday," the head of the department of transport of the ministry of transport and communications of Armenia, Davit Melkonyan, reported to us. The movement of trucks is prohibited.

According to our sources, hundreds of trucks piled up on both sides of the checkpoint. The problem of this cross-section of the road, which has key importance for Armenia, in the winter has been and remains unresolved. Since the beginning of November last year Upper Lars was periodically closed due to snow and breached our flow of goods with the outside world. The ministry still has no definitive statistics on how many times the road was opened since November 1st of last year to the present," the newspaper writes.

According to official statistics, the number of workers in the industrial sphere in Armenia decreased by 2% in 2015 compared with the previous year 2014. But this did not prevent the official statistics from deriving figures that alleged that in 2015 the total volume of industrial production in Armenia grew by 5,2%, Zhoghovurd writes.

"It should be noted that the figures represent the total cost of production, that is, a rise in the price of goods by an average of 4% also being touted as ‘growth’. It is reported that growth in the production sector has become possible "to portray" due to almost 50% growth in the two specific areas of mining and tobacco production. In other major industrial sectors of Armenia, for example, in food production, processing plants and beverage production, the decline is from 10% to 20%," the newspaper notes.

In January this year compared to December last year, food prices in Armenia rose by 5%, Haykakan Zhamanak writes.

"It is an index characteristic for each year, but this time a strange trend has been recorded for price increases for some products. Thus, in comparison with December, the prices for potatoes and vegetables grew 31.5%. Of course, higher prices in these months are quite characteristic of our own market, but not on a such scale. It should be noted for comparison that, in comparison with December 2014, prices for potatoes and vegetables grew by only 14% in January of this year.

What caused a doubling of the rate of growth of prices for these products is unclear. The fact that, according to official statistics, last year an unprecedented crop of vegetables was harvested in Armenia, there was also an unprecedented crop of potatoes.

A similar jump in price increases may indicate that there is a shortage of potatoes. This may be due either to a significantly lower yield than was announced, or a large volume of exports. According to the data published yesterday by the National Statistical Service of the country, despite the fact that in comparison with January last year the dram has not been subject to significant changes, the prices of some food products imported to Armenia have significantly increased, and this is at a time that the world prices for them are going down, the author is surprised.

"Cash flows (transfers) sent in 2015 by individuals in Armenia through the banking system declined from the previous year by $500 million," 168 Hours reports

According to the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA), in 2015 in Armenia $1 billion 623.6 million of cash was received in the form of transfers. In 2014, this figure was $2 billion 123.6 million. At the same time, transfers sent from the RF decreased to a much larger extent, by $553 million, and amounted to about $1 billion, while in the same period the funds sent to Russia increased by $29.7 million and amounted to $282.5 million.

The statistics of Armenian-Russian transfers testify that even the locals in some cases help with money to their relatives in distress. And the more they do so, the more the likelihood increases that, if this continues, a return flow of migrants may start from Russia to Armenia," the newspaper concludes.