By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian parliament approved on Tuesday a bill giving more agenda-setting and other rights to its tiny opposition minority.
The Armenian authorities will present the move as a further indication of their compliance with a resolution on the post-election situation in Armenia adopted by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in April. The resolution says, among other things, that the opposition minority should play a greater role in the legislative process.
“We think that this draft law is one of the first steps aimed at guaranteeing activities of the political opposition,” said David Harutiunian, chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs and the main author of the package of amendments to the parliament statutes.
Under those amendments passed by the National Assembly in the first reading, opposition deputies will be able to force an urgent parliament debate on any issue once in every six months. They have until now been unable to do that without the backing of at least one third of the 131 deputies.
Only 11 deputies are in opposition to Armenia’s leadership. Seven of them are affiliated with the Zharangutyun party of Raffi Hovannisian, while the others are staunch allies of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. Three of the pro-Ter-Petrosian lawmakers are currently in prison pending trial on coup charges stemming from the post-election unrest in the country. The fourth one has been in hiding since the deadly clashes.
Another amendment will enable the opposition minority to run at least one of the parliament’s standing committees. However, it will come into effect only after the next parliamentary elections due in 2012.
Even so, the parliament’s pro-government majority indicated its readiness to see a Zharangutyun representative chair one of the three new committees to be set up soon. But the opposition party made clear that it will turn down the likely offer.
Zharangutyun deputies were also less than enthusiastic about the enacted amendments. Only one of them voted for the government-backed bill.