By Gevorg Stamboltsian
A representative of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) met Monday with President Robert Kocharian and a string of other senior Armenian officials to wrap up a fact-finding trip aimed at assessing Yerevan’s compliance with democratic standards set by the organization.
Jerzy Jaskiernia, the Armenia rapporteur of the PACE’s Monitoring Committee, is to draft a report on whether the Kocharian’s administration is following the recommendations contained in the assembly’s April 28 resolution on the Armenian political crisis. He left no indications that the report will be as critical of the Armenian authorities as the resolution.
“We will present our findings in our report. We don’t like to make any comments during the visit,” Jaskiernia told reporters when asked to comment on his findings.
But in separate comments on Saturday, the official hinted that the document’s content is likely to be positive for the authorities. “I think there is an intention by the government to fulfill that resolution. Several of its elements have already been fulfilled,” he said, pointing to the release of all senior members of opposition parties involved in the three-month campaign against Kocharian.
The PACE resolution deplored the government crackdown launched in response to that campaign. It warned that the Armenian government must immediately free all individuals arrested for their participation in the opposition protests and investigate “human rights abuses” or face the possibility of PACE sanctions next September.
However, the main focus of Jaskiernia’s meetings in Yerevan was the idea of a referendum of confidence in Kocharian which was floated by the Armenian Constitutional Court in the wake of last year’s disputed presidential election. Government officials reiterated their view that the proposal was not binding for the executive branch and did not stem from the country’s constitution. Jaskiernia seemed to agree with them.
The opposition leaders, already enraged by Jaskiernia’s repeated statements that serious fraud reported during the presidential election did not affect its outcome, reacted with irritation. “Decisions of the Constitutional Court are not subject to discussion by Armenian politicians, let alone Jaskiernia,” one of them, Aram Sarkisian, told RFE/RL.
Artashes Geghamian, another opposition leader who met with Jaskiernia, complained that the PACE mainly met with various-level government officials while in Yerevan, arguing that he could have familiarized himself with their position without leaving Strasbourg. “I warned him that if yet another subjective monitoring [of the situation] is carried out, it will further deepen the socioeconomic and political crisis in Armenia,” Geghamian said.
The opposition also renewed its allegations that the publication earlier this month in Yerevan of Jaskiernia’s book about the PACE, which was sponsored by the Armenian parliament, amounted to a political kickback which was meant to influence the content of his upcoming report to the Strasbourg assembly. “I don’t think the Armenian public couldn’t wait to read the book by the PACE rapporteur,” said Victor Dallakian of the Artarutyun alliance. “I consider that an example of corruption.”
Jaskiernia has denied any conflict of interest between his PACE position and the promotion of his writings. He argues that he had no material gains from the book’s translation to the Armenian language.