By Hrach Melkumian
Opposition deputies were collecting signatures on Monday to call an emergency debate in the Armenian parliament on their demand to dissolve a state commission that forced the independent A1+ television off the air on April 2.
The opposition is pushing for amendments in the Armenian law on broadcasting that would lead to the dissolution of the National Commission on Television and Radio appointed by President Robert Kocharian.
Opposition factions in the 131-member parliament need to garner the backing of at least 44 deputies by Tuesday afternoon to force a debate on the issue. They had only 27 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
Several hundred people gathered outside the parliament building to back the opposition demands. "With our presence we want to force deputies to amend the law so that the commission will be dissolved," said a senior member of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party, Aramazd Zakarian.
Hanrapetutyun, which is led by former Yerevan mayor Albert Bazeyan and former prime minister Aram Sarkisian, was one of the main organizers of Friday's demonstration in Yerevan. About 10,000 opposition supporters marched to the presidential palace to again condemn A1+'s closure and demand Kocharian's resignation. They said the broadcasting commission stripped the popular channel of its frequency at the best of Kocharian.
The attempt to pressurize the pro-Kocharian majority in the National Assembly did not seem to have a desired effect, with Hanrapetutyun leaders urging the crowd to disperse and gather outside the Armenian Court of Economic Arbitration on Tuesday. The court is due to start hearings on an A1+ appeal against the results of the frequency tender on that day.
Bazeyan told the crowd that the court verdict is more important than the proposed amendments in the TV law.