By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The Armenian opposition achieved a rare success in the parliament on Tuesday, blocking a government attempt to privatize several dozen public hospitals across the country.
After a concerted boycott by minority opposition factions, the parliament failed to make a quorum for a vote on legislation placing the chronically underfunded hospitals on the list of state assets subject to privatization. Only 49 members of the 131-assembly took part in the vote.
Communist lawmaker Frunze Kharatian, speaking on behalf of 28 opposition deputies, said they are against expanding the decade-long privatization to the health sector. In a major setback for Minister for State Property David Vartanian who submitted the initiative, they were tacitly backed by some of their pro-government colleagues.
The government can have the parliament again consider the proposed legislation only after amending it, a process that may take weeks, if not months.
The opposition factions announced later in the day that they are creating an “unofficial union” that will coordinate their legislative activities. One of their outspoken representatives, Arshak Sadoyan, said they will also launch a “resolute struggle” against possible government attempts to falsify the upcoming local, presidential and parliamentary elections.
All of those deputies are affiliated with parties making up a recently formed 16-party coalition of opposition forces that hope to defeat President Robert Kocharian with joint efforts. But existing differences among some opposition partners are seriously complicating the task.
Artashes Geghamian, leader of the National Unity party and a likely presidential candidate, highlighted those difference on Tuesday when he sharply denied rumors about his secret ties with Kocharian. Geghamian renewed verbal attacks on Kocharian, saying that his party is only ready to help ensure his physical security after his removal from power.
Geghamian also alleged that former President Levon Ter-Petrosian is holding secret talks with Kocharian.