By Hrach Melkumian
Echoing President Robert Kocharian’s threats to detain troublemaking opposition lawmakers, the Armenian government will ask the parliament to approve its proposal to set tough penalties against deputies disrupting its sessions.
The government approved on Thursday draft amendments in the parliament’s statutes that would allow speaker Armen Khachatrian to order police into the parliament hall and bar deputies from entering the building for up to 15 days. The move came two days after Kocharian warned that opposition lawmakers will face brief arrest if they again disrupt parliament proceedings.
The proposed changes were denounced on Friday as unconstitutional by leaders of an opposition alliance that brought the National Assembly to a halt last week, protesting its majority’s refusal to debate impeachment proceedings against Kocharian. They said they will appeal to the Constitutional Court if the government pushes them through the parliament.
Deputies mostly representing the 13-party alliance seized its main rostrum and prevented everybody else from speaking for three days running.
The opposition leaders reiterated that they were simply protesting against “illegal decisions” taken by Khachatrian. They said they will again raise the issue when the deputies return from their summer recess next September.
Also, under the government proposals the deputies will no longer be able to decide on impeachment initiatives and motions of censure in a secret ballot. They will instead be required to vote openly.
The opposition believes that the proposed change confirms their claims that Kocharian and the government fear an impeachment debate in the parliament. “They are trying to make those votes open and affect the results of those votes,” said Albert Bazeyan of the Hanrapetutyun party.