Also on March 14, Armenian National Television Director Tigran Naghdalian announced that he has submitted his resignation. National TV has until now been one of President Robert Kocharian’s few remaining strongholds, and Naghdalian a loyal supporter of the president. One hundred percent state-owned, National TV is governed by a nominally independent board of trustees, usually dominated by nominees of the authorities. Under the law, that board appoints and releases National TV’s director. The current board, however, is riddled with vacancies and thus unable to pass valid decisions–one symptom among others of the legal vacuum which has engulfed Armenia. Naghdalian’s resignation was demanded in the tone of an ultimatum on March 3 by Kocharian’s adversaries at an unprecedented news conference. Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, the top leaders of the governing Republican Party and People’s Party and their parliamentary groups, several ministers, army generals, the chief military prosecutor, and leaders of Yerhrapah [Country Defender, the paramilitary organization closely linked with the Republican Party and the prime minister] attended that news conference to add force to their demand. They further demanded the dismissal of the presidential chief of staff and security council secretary, Serge Sarkisian (unrelated to the brothers Vazgen and Aram Sarkisian). Serge Sarkisian, an internal affairs general and former national security minister, is generally ranked as the president’s most capable aide. On March 6, however, Kocharian rejected both of those demands in a highly effective appearance on National TV. Eight days later, Naghdalian nevertheless resigned.
Naghdalian describes his decision as a strictly personal one, stemming from political pressure on the institution and on him personally. He has not said whether the plight of National TV’s Deputy Director, Harutiun Harutiunian, influenced his own decision. The anti-Kocharian military prosecutors arrested Harutiun Harutiunian two months ago and have recently extended the term of investigative detention by another two months. They are trying to implicate him–and perhaps indirectly Kocharian–in the October 27 terrorist assassination of prime minister Vazgen Sarkisian and other politicians. Naghdalian expects that his resignation will be followed by resignations or dismissals of members of the National TV management team.
According to local observers, the most likely candidates for the director’s post are: Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian’s press secretary Eduard Melitonian and the Defense Ministry’s former spokesman Seiran Shahsuvarian. Both candidates are associated with the leaders of the antipresidential camp (Noyan-Tapan, Snark, Azg, Armenpress, March 14-15; see the Monitor, March 9).
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