By Shakeh Avoyan
The pro-government majority and opposition factions of the Armenian parliament traded bitter accusations on Thursday as they debated a controversial government initiative to give the speaker sweeping powers to punish deputies disrupting proceedings.
More than 30 deputies took the floor to voice their support or opposition to the proposed extraordinary changes in the parliament statutes. Some of them used offensive language to attack their opponents.
The opposition minority repeated its claims that the draft amendments are aimed at suppressing dissent and contradict the constitution. They were again backed by the chairman of the parliament committee on legal affairs and a member of the pro government Miasnutyun faction, Victor Dallakian.
However, the majority of lawmakers appeared likely to vote for the changes on Friday.
If the draft amendments are approved by the National Assembly, speaker Armen Khachatrian will be allowed to remove deputies from the parliament hall and ban them from entering it for up to 15 days. Khachatrian would be able to order police to enforce the sanctions.
The government initiative followed the disruption of the parliament's work earlier this month by several opposition deputies protesting the majority's refusal to debate the possibility of impeaching Kocharian. They said they will resume the protest next September.
Under another proposed change, the parliament will no longer be able to vote on impeachment initiatives in a secret ballot. The opposition lawmakers said the proposal exposes Kocharian's "distrust" in the parliament majority and fear of an impeachment debate.
The have argued previously that some of the deputies publicly supporting Kocharian are in fact unhappy with him and ready to secretly back initiatives directed against him.
The claims were shrugged off by Galust Sahakian, the Miasnutyun leader, on Thursday.