By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A 10-strong group uniting non-partisan and pro-establishment members of the Armenian parliament elected on Monday a staunch supporter of President Robert Kocharian as its new leader.
Vladimir Badalian was chosen to head the Agro-Industrial People’s Group after it narrowly avoided automatic dissolution following a scandalous defection of two of its deputies.
Its former leader, Hmayak Hovannisian, quit the group earlier this month after falling out with its members. Only one of them, Henrik Grigorian, sided with Hovannisian and followed the suit.
The moves reduced the number of Agro-Industrial deputies to nine, below the 10-member legal threshold for the existence of parliamentary formations in the 131-member National Assembly. The group was saved from break-up late last week when it enlisted a new member, Hovannes Abovian.
Abovian became a parliament deputy after winning a by-election in the Noyemberian constituency in northern Armenia earlier this year. The seat was previously held by Vano Siradeghian, the fugitive former interior minister and a bitter Kocharian foe.
Badalian, the new Agro-Industrial leader, is a former senior member of the People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), a major opposition organization. Badalian left the HZhK last year over its toughening opposition to Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s government. He has since grown openly supportive of the president.
Last month, Badalian’s daughter got engaged with Kocharian’s elder son.