A major opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage), on Tuesday stopped boycotting sessions of the Armenian parliament in protest against what it sees as President Serzh Sarkisian’s efforts to tighten his grip on power.
Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian and four other deputies representing the party attended the opening sitting of the National Assembly’s autumn session that began in the morning.
They all demonstratively walked out of the 131-member assembly in late February following Sarkisian’s new power-sharing agreement with his junior coalition partners, the Orinats Yerkir and Prosperous Armenia (BHK) parties.
The agreement commits Orinats Yerkir and the BHK to supporting the incumbent president in the 2013 presidential election. It also states that the two parties as well as Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) will have an even greater representation in the next National Assembly to be elected in May 2012.
Like other major opposition forces, Zharangutyun condemned this provision, saying that it effectively predetermines the outcome of the next parliamentary elections due in May 2012.
In a statement read out on behalf of the Zharangutyun faction, its secretary Larisa Alaverdian said the five deputies decided to end the six-month boycott because Armenians have grown finally convinced about the need for “systemic changes” and “complete regime change” in the country. She said that this is making the coalition deal irrelevant.
Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian, who is a senior HHK figure, welcomed the end of the Zharangutyun boycott. “I have urged them on numerous occasions to participate in the work of the National Assembly and I am happy that they are back,” he told journalists.
The ruling coalition has repeatedly dismissed opposition concerns about the February deal. Sarkisian personally promised in June to that his government “will spare no effort” to ensure the proper conduct of the next elections.