By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s main opposition group, the Artarutyun (Justice) bloc, ruled out on Saturday the possibility of dialogue with President Robert Kocharian and his political allies who overwhelmingly control the recently elected parliament.
The move came in response to indirect offers of cooperation addressed to the opposition by the parliament leaders this week. The chairman of the National Assembly, Artur Baghdasarian, said after his election as speaker on Thursday that easing political tensions caused by this year’s presidential and parliamentary election will be one of his main tasks.
His deputy, Tigran Torosian, went father, saying that the standoff between the opposition and the authorities has split the public and must be addressed urgently. Torosian, who is a leading member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), hinted that the two sides should begin negotiations during the parliament’s summer recess.
The Artarutyun leader, Stepan Demirchian, rejected the idea, saying that the opposition still does not consider Armenia’s leadership to be legitimate. “After all those [election] illegalities, repressions and falsifications such words have no value,” Demirchian told RFE/RL. “We don’t pay any attention to them.”
“I don’t thin that is serious,” agreed one of his top associates, Vazgen Manukian. “They got hold of the entire power and now want to throw some bones to their opponents. We don’t need them.”
Deputies affiliated with Artarutyun and another opposition party, Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity, boycotted the opening session of the parliament this week in protest against the official results of the 2003 polls which they believe were rigged by the authorities. The boycott prompted conciliatory statements from Kocharian and his allies. Kocharian said in particular that his newly formed coalition government comprising the HHK and the Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties can not perform well “if there is no opposition in the country.”
The apparent overtures are dismissed by Artarutyun leaders who refuse to recognize Kocharian’s controversial reelection. “We are fighting against this regime? How can we cooperate?” said one of them, Albert Bazeyan.
Both Artarutyun and National Unity made it clear that their lawmakers will attend the June 19 session of the parliament during which Markarian’s reshuffled cabinet will present its program and goals. But it is not yet clear whether the opposition forces will initiate a vote of no confidence in the executive. They hold only 26 of the 131 parliament seats.