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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The angry spat between Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian continued on Tuesday as the latter’s loyalists launched blistering attacks on the Armenian government.

Several parliamentarians representing the Orinats Yerkir Party led by Baghdasarian read out tirades about government corruption and mismanagement, in a clearly coordinated effort to embarrass Markarian and his Republican Party (HHK), the dominant force in Armenia’s ruling coalition. The tone and the content of their speeches was hardly different from the discourse of their opposition colleagues.

One of the Orinats Yerkir lawmakers, Hovannes Markarian (no relation to the prime minister), accused the authorities of continuing to sell state property to their cronies at cut-down prices and sponsoring economic monopolies. He also alleged an “insufficient oversight of state procurements and budgetary expenditures.” “Examples of that are numerous,” he added without publicizing any of them.

The statements by other Orinats Yerkir deputies were equally negative and short on specifics. One of them, Gagik Avetian, accused the authorities of failing to properly investigate last month’s massive gunfight in Yerevan that led the police to make scores of arrests.

“Unfortunately, instead of drawing appropriate conclusions and taking appropriate actions, relevant bodies have again begun telling the public fairy tales,” Avetian charged. He did not elaborate.

Opposition parliamentarians also used the unprecedented shootout to accuse the government and the police of incompetence. “Where are your informers? Do you keep them only in opposition party offices?” asked Aram Sargsian of the Artarutyun bloc.

Unlike Artarutyun, Orinats Yerkir is represented in Markarian’s government with three ministers. They are not known to have raised the party’s declared concerns at weekly cabinet meetings.

Baghdasarian, who presided over the monthly parliament session during which the deputies are allowed to make statements on any issue, refrained from delivering any speeches. His war of words with Markarian erupted last week amid rumors that President Robert Kocharian is about to appoint a new prime minister.

The Republicans implicitly accused Orinats Yerkir of spreading those rumors with the aim of weakening Markarian’s positions. Baghdasarian’s party denies those claims.

Despite its status as a governing party, Orinats Yerkir occasionally criticizes the government but avoids naming concrete agencies and officials. The party’s critics, notably the HHK, consider this tactic populist and dishonest.

(Photolur photo: Baghdasarian chairing the parliament session.)
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