By Ruzanna Stepanian
The Armenian opposition will risk losing its seats in the National Assembly if it continues to boycott its sessions, leaders of the government-controlled parliament majority warned on Friday.
They pointed to a legal clause which says that a lawmaker can be stripped of their mandate if they fail to take part in the majority of votes during a semi-annual session of the parliament for “unjustified reasons.”
“The law provides for such possibility,” deputy parliament speaker Vahan Hovannisian said. “But how the National Assembly will behave is a matter of not the law, but political expediency. I don’t think that the National Assembly will be mistaken.”
“I think this issue will be discussed at the autumn session of the parliament,” said Galust Sahakian, the leader of the parliament’s largest Republican Party faction.
The opposition Artarutyun alliance and the National Unity Party (AMK), which hold 23 seats in the 131-member assembly, began the boycott in February in protest at the majority’s refusal to discuss a referendum of confidence in President Robert Kocharian. The issue had been unexpectedly included on the parliament agenda last fall, but majority leaders subsequently vowed to block debate on it.
The opposition considers their refusal unconstitutional. Artarutyun and the AMK also say that the recall referendum, suggested by the Constitutional Court in April 2003, might serve as a compromise agreement to end their confrontation with the authorities. But the idea continues to be rejected by the three pro-Kocharian parties that control the majority of the parliament seats.
“The opposition wants to negotiate with us only on ways of ensuring our suicide,” Hovannisian complained. “But that issue is not our agenda. So the opposition can either change its position or continue to pursue that goal without our participation.”
Hovannisian added that Kocharian’s resignation would be “extremely dangerous” for Armenia and that the opposition should instead help the authorities tackle the “deepening abyss between the rich and the poor,” corruption and tax evasion.