By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Leaders of the Armenian parliament and its opposition minority boycotting its sessions met on Wednesday to discuss ways of ending the acrimony over a proposed referendum of confidence in President Robert Kocharian, but failed to make any progress.
The two sides stuck to their guns during and after the meeting, with the opposition lawmakers insisting that the Kocharian-controlled National Assembly discuss and agree to the vote suggested by the Constitutional Court. The majority leaders, however, remained adamant in their rejection of the idea.
“The opposition repeated its views on the referendum law, while we reaffirmed our position. So nothing changed,” said Galust Sahakian, the leader of the parliament’s largest faction controlled by the governing Republican Party (HHK).
The HHK and other pro-presidential factions enraged the opposition last week by refusing to even debate its draft amendments to the Armenian law on referendum that would pave the way for a national vote of confidence in Kocharian. The two dozen lawmakers representing the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) bloc and the National Unity Party walked out of the assembly in protest, announcing a joint boycott of its sessions.
Friday’s meeting was initiated by parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian who expressed hope that the two rival camps will bridge their differences at the negotiating table. More such talks are expected in the coming days.
“The amendments must be discussed and passed,” said Artarutyun’s Victor Dallakian. He warned that the opposition might resort to “drastic revolutionary steps” if the authorities continue to reject its demands.
The opposition’s uncompromising line was denounced by Tigran Torosian, the parliament vice-speaker representing the HHK. Torosian said further talks on ending the opposition boycott will be a waste of time unless Kocharian’s opponents soften their stance. But he would not say whether the majority itself is prepared for any concessions.
The lawmakers said they found more common ground on the question of Nagorno-Karabakh which was also discussed at the meeting at Baghdasarian’s request. In Dallakian’s words, the two sides agreed that a 2001 declaration signed by all the factions of the previous legislature must remain at the heart of Armenia’s position in peace talks with Azerbaijan. The document ruled out, among other things, Karabakh’s return under Azerbaijani rule.