The National Assembly rejected on Wednesday an opposition proposal to ban President Serzh Sarkisian from using Armenia’s armed forces to enforce a possible state of emergency.
Deputies from the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) proposed corresponding amendments to a law that gives such authority to the president of the republic. The law was enacted in 2012 four years ago after a deadly post-election crackdown on HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian’s opposition movement.
Ten people were killed and more than 100 others wounded as security forces ended nonstop protests held by Ter-Petrosian supporters against alleged vote rigging during the handover of power from President Robert Kocharian to Sarkisian. Kocharian ordered Armenian army units into Yerevan after declaring a state of emergency during the unrest. The HAK considers that move unconstitutional.
Gagik Jahangirian, a HAK deputy and the main author of the amendments, predicted on Tuesday that the parliament’s pro-government majority will block the opposition initiative. He said their passage would prove that Kocharian’s actions were illegal.
Only 35 members of the 131-seat parliament voted for the amendment. The parliament’s committee on legal affairs spoke out against them last month.
Jahangirian denied any connection between the HAK initiative and ongoing anti-government demonstrations staged by the HAK, the opposition Zharangutyun Party and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). The three political forces will rally supporters in Yerevan on October 10 in what could be the start of their joint campaign of sustained protests aimed at toppling Sarkisian.
The chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, warned last month that security forces would not hesitate to “strictly” respond to any actions that are deemed unconstitutional by the authorities. Gasparian cited the need to prevent a repeat of the March 2008 bloodshed. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said afterwards that the Armenian military would not step in to help the government quell possible protests threatening Sarkisian’s hold on power.