By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The pro-government majority in Armenia’s parliament thwarted on Monday an opposition bid to force a debate on legal amendments that would pave the way for a “referendum of confidence” in President Robert Kocharian.
Majority leaders said the idea, floated by the Constitutional Court following last year’s disputed presidential election, has no legal and political basis and does not even merit a discussion on the parliament floor. But their opposition foes, grouped in two minority factions, warned that the move will only prolong the lingering post-election tensions in the country.
The two dozen opposition deputies, mindful of their lack of influence in the National Assembly, staged a demonstrative walkout just before their motion to include the issue on the agenda of this week’s parliament session was put to the vote. Only five lawmakers voted for it in their absence, while as many as 80 others voted against.
“We had elections only several months ago and we see no need to keep up tensions in the society,” said parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian.
Baghdasarian and his allies reiterated their arguments that the Constitutional Court’s referendum proposal had a non-binding character and does not stem from Armenia’s basic law. Levon Mkrtchian, the parliamentary leader of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation, said such a vote would be unconstitutional because Kocharian is a legitimately reelected president.
The opposite camp, on the other hand, stood by its vote rigging allegations and referred to a constitutional clause stipulating that “power belongs to the people.” It again threatened a fresh campaign of anti-government demonstrations. “The opposition is being driven into the streets,” warned Hrant Khachatrian of the Artarutyun bloc.
A similar warning was issued by Artashes Geghamian, the outspoken leader of the opposition National Unity Party.
In the words of the main author of the draft amendments to the Armenian law on referendum, Victor Dallakian, the two hitherto rival opposition groups will join forces to fight for their cause. “The Artarutyun and National Unity factions are united in their resolve to restore constitutional order and form a legitimate government in Armenia and will act in a coordinated manner,” he declared.
Dallakian said the opposition and its supporters now have a free hand to “take power back from the one who usurped it.”
However, it remained unclear what specifically they now intend to do. Geghamian and his party have until now avoided any participation in Artarutyun-led rallies.