By Shakeh Avoyan
An Armenian lawmaker who forced a parliament debate on the possibility of restoring depreciated Soviet-era bank deposits over the government’s objections sought on Friday to quash speculation that the move was imitated by other, more powerful individuals.
Hmayak Hovannisian, who is not affiliated with any parliamentary faction, claimed that he himself decided to get political parties to deliver on their pledges to somehow compensate scores of Armenians who lost their cash savings in the hyperinflation of the early 1990s.
“I acted on behalf of the people. I am carrying out the people’s orders,” he told reporters. “And let those fools who are making various hints know that my sense of humor is better than theirs.”
Hovannisian, who was affiliated with the opposition National Unity Party (AMK) until last year, unexpectedly succeeded this week in collecting signatures of 66 of the 131 fellow deputies in support of his imitative. That means the National Assembly has to meet for an emergency session on Monday to discuss two bills purporting to address the socially painful loss of the savings.
One of those bills is sponsored by the Orinats Yerkir Party of parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian which is represented in Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s cabinet along with two other parties. The government blocked its passage earlier this year, arguing that the $83 million sought by Orinats Yerkir could be more efficiently spent on other social programs.
The deposit compensation was one of Orinats Yerkir’s key election campaign pledges and its parliamentary faction promptly signed up to Hovannisian’s initiative. Markarian’s Republican Party and the third coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), responded by accusing Baghdasarian’s party of acting against a government of which it is a member.
Hovannisian, who is rumored to have close ties with Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, said he is relishing the chance to act as an “arbiter” for the bickering coalition partners. “Just as criminals are brought face to face [for cross-examination], I am going to bring the coalition members face to face during the parliament session on Monday,” he declared.
Hovannisian also warned the Republicans and the Dashnaks against scuttling the debate by refusing to attend it. “If you don’t come, I will appeal to the people from the parliament podium so that they force you to show up,” he said. “The people must see who is who and who wants what in this country.”
The coalition leaders were scheduled to meet with President Robert Kocharian late on Friday to discuss the situation.