By Emil Danielyan and Karine Kalantarian
The current Armenian parliament is not legitimate and must be dissolved because the Miasnutyun bloc, which won the majority there in 1999, does not exist anymore, one of the two parties forming the alliance declared on Tuesday. The People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK) led by Stepan Demirchian called for fresh parliamentary elections, ending a year of mounting tensions with its Miasnutyun partner, the governing Republican Party (HHK).
Stepan Demirchian, leader of HZhK
The two erstwhile allies, bitterly divided over key political issues, have drifted further apart in the last several months, making the collapse of the once powerful alliance just a matter of time. Either party waited for the other to officially announce the far-reaching divorce. A statement issued by the HZhK puts an end to Miasnutyun’s existence and sets the stage for more changes in the Armenian political scene.
“The HHK, declaring itself the support base of [President] Robert Kocharian, has effectively placed itself outside the Miasnutyun bloc, and, assuming the role of his stooge, enacts anti-popular laws through all kinds of pressure and falsification,” the statement said.
Differing attitudes toward Kocharian were a key reason for the rift between the two parties. The Republicans have avoided any confrontation with the head of state ever since he appointed their leader, Andranik Markarian, as prime minister in May 2000. They have since been utterly loyal to Kocharian, a stance disapproved by the HZhK which still suspects Kocharian of orchestrating the 1991 bloodbath in the parliament in which Miasnutyun’s two charismatic founders, Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and parliament speaker Karen Demirchian (Stepan’s father), were shot dead.
The HZhK is also critical of Kocharian’s and Markarian’s economic policy, having repeatedly backed opposition initiatives in the parliament. This has led to the ouster of many party members from the executive.
Demirchian’s overtures to the opposition were instrumental in the recent rift in the HZhK. The current parliament speaker, Armen Khachatrian, and eight other lawmakers quit the center-left party after a failed revolt against Demirchian. But the defectors remain members of Miasnutyun’s 46-strong faction in the National Assembly. Only nine of them are now affiliated with the HZhK.
The HZhK said the bloc’s break-up should also entail the dissolution of the Miasnutyun faction. “All attempts to portray the HHK and the deputies that left the HZhK as Miasnutyun are illegal and illogical,” its statement said, rejecting the Republicans’ arguments that the bloc’s collapse does not necessitate fresh elections.
“The faction’s existence without the bloc’s existence is a nonsense,” Demirchian told RFE/RL in an interview. “The current parliamentary majority is artificial and has nothing to do with the popular vote. What we have now is a National Assembly not expressing the will of the people.”
Under the Armenian constitution, only the president can dissolve the legislature and call a fresh vote. But Kocharian, who now controls the assembly, is unlikely to do so in the months to come.
Demirchian said “the only true and moral decision” for the Miasnutyun deputies is to surrender their mandates and thereby force the parliament’s dissolution.