By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Leaders of the Armenian parliament’s pro-government majority promised on Friday to consider an unexpected opposition offer to reach a compromise agreement on constitutional amendments put forward by President Robert Kocharian.
Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian told a senior opposition lawmaker, Victor Dallakian, that he will begin “political consultations” with fellow majority leaders over three constitutional changes demanded by the Artarutyun bloc and the National Unity Party (AMK).
The changes would empower the National Assembly to endorse prime-ministerial candidates nominated by the president, seriously limit the latter’s controversial authority to appoint and sack judges as well as make the mayor of Yerevan an elected official. The two opposition groups have indicated that they will endorse Kocharian’s package of draft amendments if their proposals are incorporated into it.
Dallakian told reporters that Baghdasarian promised to finish the consultations within ten days. “We put forward a package proposal,” he said. “If two coalition parties accept but the other rejects them, we will not participate in this process.”
The opposition has previously rejected Kocharian’s constitutional amendments as undemocratic and vowed to scuttle his efforts to push them through a referendum expected this summer. Leaders of the three parties represented in Kocharian’s government reacted positively to the softening of the opposition stance.
“We will consider that proposal,” said Gagik Minasian of the Republican Party (HHK), the biggest parliamentary force.
“Most of the [opposition] proposals are quite sound ones,” said Armen Rustamian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
The coalition parties had offered the opposition the right of veto in the reform process, in an unsuccessful attempt to stave off a campaign of anti-Kocharian street protests last spring. Both Minasian and Rustamian told RFE/RL that the offer may no longer be on the table.
“It is strange that they are reacting to that offer now,” said the HHK representative.
“I am glad that our colleagues now accept our offer made at that time. But there is a problem of missing the right moment,” said Rustamian. “The political situation makes some things possible at one point and problematic at another. The situation has changed a bit. So has our mood.”