By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian opposition invoked on Wednesday a legal loophole that could allow it to force an impeachment debate in the parliament without having to enlist the support of at least one third of its members.
Failure to collect the required minimum number of deputies’ signatures led to the collapse of the previous such initiative earlier this month. It followed a series of street protests by thousands of opposition supporters.
A representative of several minority opposition factions, Ghukas Ulikhanian, announced that they will use a provision in the parliamentary statutes allowing every deputy to put any motion related to the issue debated by fellow lawmakers. Ulikhanian made the surprise announcement during discussions of a report by a special parliamentary commission that has overseen the official probe of the 1999 parliament killings.
The report concludes that Armenia’s “state security bodies” could have forestalled the bloody attack on the National Assembly that left Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six other officials dead. The report, submitted at the end of the commission’s one-year work, came as an indirect attack on Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who was national security minister at the time.
Ulikhanian said Kocharian also bears personal responsibility for the brazen terrorist attack and should therefore be removed from office. He repeated opposition charges that Kocharian took several “unconstitutional” steps in the months that followed the parliament massacre.
The opposition announcement caught the parliament’s pro-Kocharian majority off guard. Deputy speaker Tigran Torosian and other deputies accused the opposition of favoring “irresponsible” methods of political struggle, but did not immediately question their legality.
The chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs, Victor Dallakian, said the opposition factions will be entitled to having the impeachment issue automatically included in the parliament agenda during the next session scheduled for June 10.