By Armen Zakarian
Leaders of Armenia’s main opposition group, the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance, will meet on Friday to discuss their upcoming political offensive which will center on calls for a “referendum of confidence” in President Robert Kocharian.
They said on Thursday that the meeting will approve and circulate draft amendments to an Armenian law on referendum that, if approved by parliament, would pave the way for the vote suggested by the Constitutional Court in the wake of this year’s presidential election.
In a ruling that dealt a blow to the legitimacy of Kocharian’s reelection, the court argued that the referendum of confidence could end a bitter political standoff sparked by opposition allegations of electoral fraud. The idea was rejected and denounced as unconstitutional by Kocharian and his political allies. Artarutyun, whose leader Stepan Demirchian claimed victory in the election, is using it as an opportunity to keep up pressure on the authorities.
The Armenian parliament, formed as a result of the May 25 polls also criticized by the international community, is dominated by presidential loyalists and will likely vote down the opposition initiative. Nonetheless, Artarutyun, which controls only 16 seats in the 131-member National Assembly, hopes to force a debate on the issue and attract as much public attention as possible. It may now count on the backing of 9 deputies affiliated with another opposition force, the National Unity Party of Artashes Geghamian.
The bloc has also drafted amendments to Armenia’s electoral code and much-criticized law on broadcasting which was used by the authorities to shut down the independent A1+ television station in April 2002. The main author of the amendments, Victor Dallakian, said the parliament’s pro-Kocharian majority should brace itself for a fierce battle with the opposition. “Some people should get ready for a heated autumn,” he told RFE/RL.
According to Dallakian, the Artarutyun lawmakers, who boycotted the opening sessions of the parliament in June, are now conducting “serious legislative work” and will soon unveil more than 30 legal initiatives. Those also include proposals to raise public sector salaries and pensions and to compensate hundreds of thousands of people whose Soviet-era savings were wiped out by the hyperinflation of the early 1990s.