By Hrach Melkumian and Armen Zakarian
President Robert Kocharian, reacting to the recent attempts to force him into resignation, warned on Tuesday that opposition deputies will face brief arrest if they again disrupt parliament proceedings.
Kocharian said he did not order police to take tough action during last week’s turmoil in the parliament only at the request of speaker Armen Khachatrian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.
“I did not interfere in the proceedings because both the prime minister and the chairman of the National Assembly asked me so, saying that they will settle the matter by themselves,” he said.
The 131-member assembly was left paralyzed last week after several opposition deputies seized its main rostrum following Khachatrian’s refusal to include their initiative to bring impeachment proceedings against Kocharian on the agenda. The parliament went into summer recess on June 12, failing to overcome the crisis. Opposition factions said they will renew their extraordinary protest action when it begins its next regular session in September.
But Kocharian warned that if they again disrupt the proceedings they will be “immediately taken to an appropriate place and held there until the end of the sitting.” “You will see what our law-enforcement bodies are able to do in order to make some deputies respect the order,” he told reporters.
Kocharian again described opposition actions as “hooliganism” and said deputies can be briefly held in custody despite their legal immunity from prosecution.
The opposition lawmakers representing a 13-party alliance have said they will continue to raise the impeachment issue. Leaders of the parliament’s largest Miasnutyun faction supporting Kocharian have charged that their actions were orchestrated by unnamed “external forces” keen to destabilize Armenia.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian denied on Friday persisting media speculation that he is secretly encouraging the opposition to press on with its impeachment attempts. Some commentators have argued that Sarkisian, facing inroads from some pro-Kocharian groups, thus wants to maintain his political significance in the eyes of the president.
The influential minister said the rumors are also being spread by unnamed “non-opposition figures” who want to win Kocharian’s sympathy ahead of next year’s presidential elections. “Some people want to show their entourage how loyal they are to the president of the republic and can therefore suspect me of doing such things,” Sarkisian said.
He also denied having any differences with Kocharian.