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Opposition Slams Choice Of New Parliament Speaker


Armenia -- Armenian National Congress coordinator Levon Zurabian speaks at an opposition rally in Yerevan, 30 September, 2011.

Armenia -- Armenian National Congress coordinator Levon Zurabian speaks at an opposition rally in Yerevan, 30 September, 2011.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Monday condemned the upcoming election of Samvel Nikoyan, a senior member of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK), as the new speaker of Armenia’s parliament.

HAK representatives emphasized the fact that Nikoyan headed an ad hoc parliament commission which investigated the 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan and essentially justified the use of deadly force against opposition protesters.

“This is a clear message to our society to the effect that these authorities absolutely do not want to make concessions to the people on any issue,” Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “People who were instructed to cover up the March 1 crime and brilliantly accomplished that task are now being rewarded for that.”

Gagik Jahangirian, another senior HAK figure, described the choice of Nikoyan as “very logical from the regime’s standpoint.” “The regime is rewarding those people who served it till the end during the last elections and during the illegalities committed after those elections,” he said, adding that Nikoyan’s promotion will serve as an example to other officials ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

In a 138-page report submitted to the National Assembly in September 2009, Nikoyan’s commission concluded that the break-up of the February-March 2008 protests, which left ten people dead, was “by and large legitimate and adequate.” It said that there were only isolated instances of excessive force used by law-enforcement officers.

The Armenian authorities say that the violence resulted from an opposition attempt to forcibly seize power. The HAK insists, however, that the authorities deliberately used lethal force to enforce the results of a fraudulent presidential election.

The ruling HHK, which has a solid majority in the parliament, nominated Nikoyan to replace the previous speaker, Hovik Abrahamian, at a meeting of its governing board headed by Sarkisian late last week. Abrahamian stepped down for still unclear reasons last month.

The National Assembly is almost certain to elect Nikoyan as its new speaker. The vote is scheduled for Tuesday.

Addressing fellow lawmakers on Monday, Nikoyan confirmed that he will act as a “support base for the government.” Still, he said government bills submitted to the legislature will be scrutinized before being passed.

In a largely symbolic move, the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, which has only 6 seats in the 131-member parliament, nominated one of its parliamentarians, Larisa Alaverdian, for the vacant post. Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian said the parliament will remain a rubber-stamp body if it continues to be headed by a government loyalist.

Some pro-government deputies spoke of their sympathy for Alaverdian, while making clear that they will vote for Nikoyan. “The decision has already been made,” Vartan Bostanjian of the Prosperous Armenia Party, told Alaverdian. “I respect and like you very much. But what can I do? We have to vote for Nikoyan.”
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