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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s two main opposition groups said on Thursday that they will boycott the upcoming election of the new speaker and the chairmen of two standing committees of parliament, dismissing it as an “illegitimate” body.

The Artarutyun alliance and the National Unity Party (AMK) said the move is in line with their three-year politically motivated boycott of most parliament sessions. Both opposition forces had refused to participate in the formation of the National Assembly’s leadership following the disputed parliamentary election in May 2003.

“The elections of the National Assembly took place [in May 2003] with serious violations and did not correspond to the people’s choice,” an Artarutyun spokeswoman said after a meeting of the bloc’s governing council. “Therefore, the Artarutyun alliance is not going to take part in those intra-government games.”

“We will only take part in debates and express our position,” clarified Victor Dallakian, a senior Artarutyun lawmaker.

“We have neither a desire nor an intention to join the coalition games,” Aghasi Arshakian, a parliament deputy from the AMK, told RFE/RL.

The Armenian parliament will have to pick a new leader after its outgoing speaker, Artur Baghdasarian, formally ceases to perform his duties at the end of this month. The chairmen of the parliament committees on security and social affairs affiliated with Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir party have also stepped down as a result of the party’s withdrawal from the governing coalition.

The vacant posts will likely go to two other pro-establishment parties that remain represented in President Robert Kocharian’s government. The opposition minority in the National Assembly does not have enough seats to seriously affect results of the planned parliament vote.

Artarutyun’s decision to boycott the process was not unanimous, with at least one of its leaders, Arshak Sadoyan, insisting that the opposition should field a candidate for the post of speaker.

In a related development, opposition leaders denied a newspaper report that Baghdasarian, who now claims to be in opposition to Kocharian, has asked them to relinquish their parliament seats in protest against the ruling regime. Dallakian said he is against the idea in the first place.

“It is those deputies who got their mandates by illegal means who must hand in mandates,” he said. “The Artarutyun deputies rightly earned their mandates, and if the elections had not been rigged Artarutyun would have had a majority in parliament.”

Another leader of the bloc, Vazgen Manukian, did not rule out the possibility of the opposition’s cooperation with Orinats Yerkir. “For all its shortcomings and its participation in many bad things, there are people in that party with whom we can cooperate,” he told RFE/RL.

(Photolur photo: Victor Dallakian.)
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