By Astghik Bedevian and Hovannes Shoghikian
Routinely punctual Tigran Torosian was several minutes late for an unusually well-attended special meeting of parliament which appeared to have been set up by the government as an occasion for his formal resignation as speaker.
The embattled leader of the 131-seat body kept his colleagues in suspense for a little longer as he proceeded in a business-as-usual style in front of an un-typically full chamber Friday afternoon.
As many as 107 parliament deputies -- not a typically high quorum for the legislative body known for chronic absenteeism among its millionaire members -- watched their speaker in routine action as he formally opened the meeting, answered questions from colleagues and presented the agenda, including several votes on government-drafted bills.
Only after that did Torosian formally submit his resignation to his deputy Arevik Petrosian and left the parliament chamber and building. He remained unavailable for media throughout the day.
Under the regulations of the Armenian National Assembly, Torosian’s resignation will take effect if he confirms it in writing immediately after the expiration of the five-day period.
Torosian, 52, made public his decision to step down as parliament speaker and quit the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) earlier this week. The announcement came hours before the HHK’s governing board formally approved the conclusion of the party’s executive body that it is “inexpedient” for Torosian to continue to occupy the post. The HHK also named another senior party figure, Hovik Abrahamian, as its preferred candidate to succeed Torosian.
The HHK explained its decision by the need for ‘raising the efficiency of legislative activities’. But Torosian appeared defiant in the face of pressure from his fellow party members and was said to have repeatedly refused to step down voluntarily despite being offered senior government positions.
Eventually, he announced his resignation on Tuesday citing ‘irreconcilable differences with the parliament majority’, something that his former colleagues later said did not correspond to the facts.
In an interview with RFE/RL, HHK Deputy Chairman Razmik Zohrabian said that if Torosian really had ‘irreconcilable differences’, this would also be known to the public.
“Because the HHK does not operate in the underground, and had there been any disagreement the public would have known about it in one way or another,” Zohrabian explained.
Zohrabian confirmed that various offers ranging from a ministerial post to diplomatic service had been made to Torosian in exchange for his resignation from the speaker’s position. Among the proposed positions, according to the senior HHK member, was also the post of the minister for the Diaspora still before the ministry was formed.
“But he declined all those offers,” Zohrabian said.