By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian parliament ended on Monday its two-month summer recess with renewed opposition attempts to force a debate on launching impeachment proceedings against President Robert Kocharian.
Opposition deputies, however, abandoned their earlier intention to again disrupt proceedings by seizing the main parliament podium. They chose instead to boycott several votes, dragging out the adoption of the National Assembly’s agenda for this fall.
The assembly ended its previous spring session in chaos after several of its members held the podium for three consecutive days, protesting against speaker Armen Khachatrian’s refusal to place the impeachment issue on the agenda. The disruption led the pro-presidential majority to give the speaker sweeping powers to punish unruly deputies.
The consequences of the controversial measure were visible on Monday with increased police presence inside the parliament’s main hall and adjacent lobbies. Opposition lawmakers and some of their pro-government colleagues were angered by the fact that the police officers wore civilian clothes. “Who ordered them to take off their uniforms?” asked Vahan Hovannisian, chairman of the parliament committee on defense and security.
The challenge was brushed aside by Khachatrian who told the deputies that he himself “signed a corresponding agreement” with the Armenian interior ministry. He said the police will help him and his two deputies maintain order during debates.
Deputies defying Khachatrian’s orders can now be barred from entering the parliament building for up to six days.