By Armen Zakarian
The pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament on Thursday disputed opposition factions' claims that they can initiate an impeachment debate without having the backing of at least one third of the deputies.
On Wednesday, the opposition had invoked a legal loophole that allows it to include the issue of bringing impeachment proceedings against President Robert Kocharian on the parliament agenda. It pointed to a provision in the parliamentary statutes allowing any deputy to put a motion related to an issue currently debated by legislators.
The opposition linked the impeachment issue to a report submitted to the National Assembly this week by its ad hoc commission overseeing the official investigation into the October 1999 shootings in the parliament. The report blames Armenian security agencies for failing to forestall the bloody attack.
The leader of the largest Miasnutyun (Unity) parliamentary faction, Galust Sahakian, dismissed the opposition arguments, saying that the two issues are not related to one another. "This seems to be a new way of creating tensions," he said, accusing Kocharian's opponents of exploiting the October 1999 case.
Leaders of other pro-presidential factions, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), backed Miasnutyun's position and spoke out against a parliament debate on the impeachment.
Opposition lawmakers, however, insisted that the issue should already be considered to be on the parliament agenda and that the deputies must discuss it when they meet for a plenary session on June 10.
Observers say much will depend on the position to be taken by speaker Armen Khachatrian. He could refuse to allow an impeachment debate by simply declaring that the corresponding clause in the parliament statutes does not apply to the opposition case.
The opposition's latest political assault followed the failure of its attempts earlier this month to collect the required minimum of 44 votes to force an official discussion of its long-standing allegations that Kocharian has violated the Armenian constitution on several occasions in the past.