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By Astghik Bedevian and Ruzanna Khachatrian
The governing Republican Party (HHK) confirmed on Tuesday reports that one of its leading members, Tigran Torosian, will almost certainly become the new speaker of Armenia’s parliament.

The National Assembly’s outgoing speaker, Artur Baghdasarian, tendered his resignation on Monday and will formally cease to perform his duties on Friday. Torosian has been one Baghdasarian’s two deputies and now looks set to succeed him.

“I think the Republican Party will nominate Tigran Torosian,” the leader of the HHK faction in parliament, Galust Sahakian, told RFE/RL. “The National Assembly will have in Tigran Torosian a chairman who has a lot of experience in working with international structures,” he said.

Sahakian insisted that he is not seeking the number two position in the Armenian state hierarchy and denied rumors that Torosian has an uneasy rapport with the HHK’s top leader, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. Other parliamentary sources told RFE/RL that Torosian’s candidacy has already been approved by President Robert Kocharian who enjoys a comfortable majority in the 131-member legislature.

It also emerged that the post of vice-speaker occupied by Torosian will likely be given to a senior member of the United Labor Party (MAK), a small pro-Kocharian group that has replaced Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir in the governing coalition. The MAK, which holds only six parliament seats, was given a ministerial portfolio and several other senior government posts on Monday.

Its millionaire leader, Gurgen Arsenian, told RFE/RL that he decided to join the coalition despite having “ideological differences” with the HHK and the other party represented in Kocharian’s government, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Arsenian said the MAK does not share their nationalist orientation and will stick to its “right-wing liberal ideology.”

“We welcome the fact that the MAK is shouldering certain responsibility [for government policies] at this difficult moment,” said Sahakian.

The MAK was offered government jobs after the Republicans and the Dashnaks failed to lure another, much bigger parliamentary forces, the People’s Deputy group of 17 nominally independent deputies, into the coalition. The People’s Deputy leader, Karen Karapetian, said he and his colleagues will nonetheless “cooperate” with the government.

(Photolur photo: Tigran Torosian.)
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