By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s parliament elected Tigran Torosian, a close ally of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, as its new speaker on Thursday, completing the removal of his predecessor Artur Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir party from the ruling coalition.
The National Assembly voted for him by 94 to 1 in line with an agreement reached by President Robert Kocharian and leaders of his loyal parliament majority earlier this week.
Torosian, 50, is a senior member of Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) which has the largest faction in the parliament and is the biggest of the three parties represented in Armenia’s government. An engineer by training, he served as parliament vice-speaker until now.
“We are faced with very difficult problems and serious challenges,” Torosian said in his acceptance speech. “I am sure that those of our colleagues who did not take part in the election agree that we are facing such challenges,” he added, referring to the opposition minority that boycotted the vote.
Baghdasarian said before the secret ballot that he and eight other lawmakers remaining in the Orinats Yerkir faction will unanimously vote for Torosian, praising his former deputy as “one of the few professionals in our parliament.” “I think that his personal and professional qualities make him fit to run the National Assembly,” said the ex-speaker.
Opposition deputies who took part in a debate preceding the vote also commended those qualities, but claimed that Torosian will not make any difference in the Armenian political stage in his new capacity. They dismissed the parliament as a rubber stamp body that has little impact on government policies.
“Do you believe that the chairman of the National Assembly is the number two figure in the country?” said Grigor Harutiunian of the Artarutyun alliance, arguing that Torosian’s election was decided by Kocharian.
“Naturally, the president of the republic too must have a role in political processes,” countered Torosian.
In his speech, the new speaker said one of the key challenges facing Armenia is to holding “democratic elections” next year and in 2008. He urged the country’s main political groups to prevent a possible collapse of the “multi-party system,” in a thinly veiled reference to the growing involvement of government-connected “oligarchs” in politics.
(Photolur photo: Tigran Torosian.)