By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian denied on Friday that his Orinats Yerkir Party and the two other members of Armenia’s ruling coalition have effectively rejected an opposition offer to reach a compromise agreement on constitutional reform.
In a joint statement, Orinats Yerkir as well as the Republican Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said the opposition should take part in the reform process spearheaded by President Robert Kocharian without any preconditions. Leaders of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) bloc and the National Unity Party (AMK) said it amounted to a rejection of three major constitutional amendments suggested by them.
But Baghdasarian sought to reassure them that Kocharian and his coalition allies are ready to incorporate their ideas into a package of constitutional changes which is expected to be put on a referendum later this year. “I think that on the contrary it was yet another call for joint work,” he said of the statement.
The two opposition groups say they are ready to end their year-long boycott of parliament sessions and endorse Kocharian’s constitutional package if he agrees to give additional powers to the National Assembly and make the mayor of Yerevan an elected official.
Nonetheless, parliament deputies representing Artarutyun will suspend the boycott on Monday to attend the opening sitting of the National Assembly’s spring session and try to force a debate on an opposition bill that would compensate the holders of depreciated Soviet-era bank accounts. The bill was due to be discussed by the assembly in late December along with a similar legislative initiative put forward by Orinats Yerkir. However, the debate was controversially blocked by the parliament majority loyal to Kocharian.
Baghdasarian disapproved of the opposition initiative which appears to be a public relations stunt aimed at further embarrassing the government on the highly sensitive issue. He said the opposition is keen to rekindle political tensions in the country and pointed to Kocharian’s decision on Thursday to set up an inter-ministerial commission that will look into possible ways of somehow compensate those Armenians whose cash savings were virtually wiped out by the hyperinflation of the early 1990s.