By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A key standing committee of the National Assembly has put forward legal amendments that would allow its factions to boycott sessions of the Armenian parliament on political grounds, it emerged on Friday.
The move appears to stem from the parliament leadership’s reluctance to revoke the mandates of opposition lawmakers that walked out of the assembly last February in protest against it refusal to consider a “referendum of confidence” in President Robert Kocharian. The 24 deputies representing the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance and the National Unity Party (AMK) have since been refusing to attend parliament sessions.
The parliament’s existing statutes allow for the ouster of its members for absenteeism. Its Committee on Legal Affairs formally paved the way for such a drastic move when it declared the absence of the opposition minority unjustified on September 10.
However, the National Assembly stopped short of revoking its mandates during a debate three days later. Its speaker, Artur Baghdasarian, called for changes in the parliament statutes that would legalize boycott.
The chairman of the legal committee, Rafik Petrosian, told RFE/RL that relevant amendments have already been drafted and submitted to all parliament factions. He said they would require factions refusing to take part in debates to publicly announce the boycott before every vote. Also, boycotts could not cover more than one semi-annual session of the legislature, he added.
The proposed amendments also call for new sanctions against the broader poor attendance of parliament sessions. Those range from 50 percent cuts in the delinquent parliamentarians’ salaries to the publication of their names on the parliament’s web site.
“That can play a certain role in making deputies feel embarrassed and work more actively in the National Assembly,” Petrosian said.