By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Gevorg Stamboltsian in Vanadzor
Armenia’s ruling coalition came up on Wednesday with a four-point agenda for its upcoming “dialogue” with the opposition, reiterating its readiness to give the latter more of a say in government policy.
The three political parties represented in President Robert Kocharian’s cabinet suggested that the two sides try to reach agreement on reforming Armenia’s constitution and election legislation, jointly fight against endemic corruption and cooperate in complying with recent resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). In a joint statement, the parliamentary leaders of the Dashnaktsutyun, Orinats Yerkir and Republican parties said these issues must be at the heart of the dialogue strongly encouraged by the PACE and the United States.
For their part, the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) bloc and the National Unity Party (AMK) have called for discussions on “ways of overcoming the political crisis in Armenia resulting from the 2003 elections” which they believe were rigged by the authorities. The coalition leaders said they will agree to include the issue on the agenda of the talks if the word “crisis” is changed to “situation.”
The first official “negotiations” between the two rival camps are scheduled for Thursday. Opposition leaders say will resume their rallies in Yerevan on Friday and continue to campaign for Kocharian’s resignation regardless of the outcome of the talks.
This position was reaffirmed by the Artarutyun and the AMK leaders as they staged a joint rally in Armenia’s third largest city of Vanadzor on Wednesday. They urged several hundred protesters to take part in their next rally in Yerevan. They also sought to raise supporters’ spirit with claims about intensifying infighting among the three governing parties.
The uncompromising stance led one of the top coalition figures, deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, to seriously question the opposition’s commitment to the dialogue. “I don’t think the negotiations will last too long, and I am not particularly optimistic about their results,” Torosian told RFE/RL.