By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenian parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian dismissed on 14 June media allegations that his Orinats Yerkir party is drifting away from the ruling coalition and will join the opposition in time for the next parliamentary elections, which are due in 2007.
Speaking at a press conference staged to sum up his work over the past two years in the capacity of parliament speaker, Baghdasarian answered journalists' questions regarding the recent exchange of "compliments" between himself and opposition Hanrapetutyun party leader Aram Sarkisian, saying that the media "jump to conclusions".
"I said it on many occasions and repeat now: I don't think that the
government is always right and the opposition is always wrong.
If many opposition figures spoke about me favorably over the recent period, why does it confuse you?" Baghdasarian told journalists.
Earlier this month the newspaper "Haykakan Zhamanak" quoted former Prime Minister and opposition Hanrapetutiun party leader Aram Sarkisian as calling the parliament speaker "the only democratic force within the power pyramid." For his part, Baghdasarian told the same paper that he was flattered by Aram Sarkisian's assessment of him.
This mediated exchange of compliments gave rise to speculation that the two politicians might be mulling the possibility of forming an election bloc before the next parliamentary elections. But Baghdasarian said: "There is no need for far-reaching judgments. We are not at the pre-election stage yet. When the time for elections does come, we will discuss whom to form a bloc with and why. I see no point in such talks at this moment."
Baghdasarian also addressed recent press speculation about a conflict that ostensibly emerged between Orinats Yerkir and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the two junior members of the three-party ruling coalition.
"There is no conflict," said Baghdasarian. "There is some [mutual] criticism. I think it will be good if we spoke to each other not through the press, but in person trying to settle all working issues if such do exist."
The situation received wide press coverage after Shirak's Dashnak Governor Romik Manukian told "Haykakan Zhamanak" last week that in the early 1990s, Hovhannes Markarian, a member of the Orinats Yerkir parliamentary faction, was tried in court for stealing milk powder granted as humanitarian aid. Manukian also implied Orinats Yerkir faction leader Samvel Balasanian purchased the Gyumri brewery "at a laughably low price."
In an interview with RFE/RL, Hovhannes Markarian dismissed those allegations as libel, and he produced documents that prove that the case against him was dismissed while still at the preliminary investigation stage.