By Armen Zakarian
Opposition deputies who paralyzed the Armenian parliament last week dismissed on Wednesday President Robert Kocharian’s threats to take them in custody if they repeat their extraordinary actions.
The defiant lawmakers who were protesting the parliament leadership’s refusal to allow a debate on impeachment proceedings against Kocharian said he has no right to order police into the National Assembly.
“The moment I enter the parliament hall on September 15 I will walk on the podium and wait and see how the president will go about removing me from there,” Manuk Gasparian, an independent deputy opposed to Kocharian, told RFE/RL.
Gasparian and several other legislators seized the main parliament rostrum and prevented everybody else from speaking for three days running, forcing the assembly to end its spring session. They said they will again disrupt the proceedings when the parliament begins its autumn session in September.
One of the protesters, Samvel Saghatelian, accused Kocharian of “misinterpreting the law.” “The deputies are free to choose their forms of protest,” Saghatelian told RFE/RL.
Describing the opposition actions as “hooliganism,” Kocharian warned on Tuesday that the deputies will face brief arrest if they again halt debate. He said that if the deputies disrupt order police can “pull their ears” and take them away.
“These statement was unworthy of a president of the republic,” said Gagik Tadevosian of the opposition Communist Party. “He simply doesn’t have the right to say such things.”
However, Kocharian’s warning was welcomed by leaders of his loyal parliament majority which has consistently blocked impeachment debates. The leader of the largest Miasnutyun faction, Galust Sahakian, said that the president can use force to restore law and order in the legislature. “What the opposition did was a clear violation of the law. They disrupted the work of the legislative body,” he argued.
The parliamentary leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), Armen Rustamian, agreed with Sahakian.