By Karine Kalantarian
The Artarutyun (Justice) bloc, Armenia’s main opposition group, decided on Wednesday not to boycott sessions of the new parliament in protest against widespread irregularities which it claims cost it a victory in last month’s elections.
Leaders of the multi-party alliance decided to accept the 14 parliament seats which they will get as a result of winning nearly 14 percent of votes cast for various political forces. Only the governing Republican Party of Armenia won more seats (23) under the system of proportional representation, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).
Artarutyun rejects as fraudulent the official vote results, saying that it was the legitimate winner of the poll. Some members of its governing council have argued that participation in the National Assembly’s work would legitimize the legislature. But most of them, including Artarutyun leader Stepan Demirchian, insisted on entering the parliament. They said boycott will always remain an option.
“We will continue our struggle against the illegitimate authorities both inside and outside the parliament, including the Constitutional Court,” Aram Sarkisian of the opposition Democratic Party said after a two-hour meeting of Artarutyun’s leadership.
Another prominent oppositionist who stood for the boycott, Albert Bazeyan, said he fell in line because “political expediency is more important than personal wishes.” “The dominant view was that we should take the mandates and participate in the National Assembly’s work on certain conditions,” he said, adding that the opposition will not attend any “ceremonial events in which Robert Kocharian will take part.”
Artarutyun refuses to recognize Kocharian’s victory in last winter’s disputed election, saying that it was achieved by fraudulent means. Kocharian and his allies deny the charges.
Bazeyan said one of the opposition bloc’s first parliament initiatives will be to push for the holding of a “referendum of confidence” in Kocharian. The idea, angrily rejected by the president, was suggested by Armenia’s Constitutional Court shortly after the presidential ballot. It is unlikely to attract sufficient support in the parliament which will be dominated by Kocharian’s loyalists.
Still, Bazeyan said Artarutyun lawmakers will try to capitalize on differences inside the presidential camp. “There are serious disagreements inside the regime; Robert Kocharian is very weak; and we could face a serious situation,” he claimed. “So if the alliance is left out of these processes, it won’t be able to influence them.”