By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Karine Kalantarian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian on Wednesday expressed regret at the opposition deputies’ decision to boycott parliament sessions, but played down the move’s impact on the political situation in Armenia.
“Of course, it would be desirable to see the opposition participate in the National Assembly’s work,” he told reporters. “But that was their decision and there is no way we can impose our view on them. We don’t even want to do that.”
Asked whether the opposition boycott, announced on Tuesday in protest against the authorities’ refusal to hold a referendum of confidence in President Robert Kocharian, heralds a new political crisis in the country, he replied: “I wouldn’t draw such conclusions from the latest developments.”
Members of Markarian’s Republican Party were among 80 lawmakers who voted earlier this week against holding a debate on opposition amendments that would pave the way for a national vote of confidence in Kocharian. Armenia’s two largest opposition groups represented in the National Assembly denounced the refusal, saying that the issue was included on the parliament agenda last October.
The boycott signaled a rapprochement between the hitherto rival Artarutyun bloc and the National Unity Party that refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Kocharian’s reelection in last year’s disputed presidential ballot. But it remains unclear what concrete forms their cooperation might take.
Demirchian ruled out Wednesday forming alliances with National Unity. “Artarutyun is always ready for cooperation, but there is no need for new alliances,” he told RFE/RL in an interview. “Artarutyun is a self-sufficient force.”
Demirchian also warned the authorities that their continued refusal to agree to the referendum could prompt the opposition to take more radical actions. “If the civilized way [of political struggle] is exhausted, responsibility for further developments will fall on the authorities,” he said. “It is in our country’s interests to have a regime change without an upheaval. The exit of this government is predetermined. The challenge is to make it as smooth as possible for our country.”
However, he would not be drawn on how his alliance plans to fight for its cause outside the parliament. He said that the opposition will hold more “meetings with the people” around the country but stopped short of promising a campaign of mass demonstrations in Yerevan favored by other Artarutyun leaders.
Markarian, meanwhile, said he is confident that the opposition push for regime change will again fizzle out.