By Anna Saghabalian
Victor Dallakian, a veteran opposition lawmaker, said on Wednesday that the Armenian parliament failed to pass a controversial government bill seriously restricting foreign broadcasts due to several factors, including what he called major differences within the ruling coalition.
The National Assembly lacked only one vote to make a quorum and adopt the bill, widely believed to be directed against RFE/RL’s Armenian-language broadcasts, in the final reading on Tuesday. Its opposition minority mainly representing the Zharangutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties boycotted the vote at the last-minute urging of Dallakian. The opposition was greatly helped by the unexpected failure of many pro-government deputies to take part in the vote.
Dallakian, who is not affiliated with any party, said their absence testifies to disagreements within the country’s leadership. “I don’t find accidental the fact that the so-called parliamentary majority, which is not monolithic, was not properly present at the National Assembly,” he told reporters. “Some of them were told not to show up. Others registered but did not take part in the vote. This was directed by somebody.”
The absent deputies are mainly affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the two junior partners in President Robert Kocharian’s and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s governing coalition.
Dallakian did not specify whether he thinks Kocharian and Sarkisian disagree on the issue. He claimed only that Kocharian will not support Sarkisian during next year’s presidential election and will endorse a Dashnaktsutyun candidate instead.
In Dallakian’s words, the other factors behind the defeat of the government bill were popular support for continued retransmission of RFE/RL programs by Armenian Public Radio, Western pressure on official Yerevan, and the opposition tactic in the parliament.