By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian opposition appeared on Monday to have tricked the parliament majority into agreeing to a debate on a referendum of confidence of President Robert Kocharian suggested by the Constitutional Court last April.
The lawmakers, most of them loyal to Kocharian, unwittingly included on the parliament agenda amendments to an Armenian law on referendum that were drafted by the opposition Artarutyun bloc and would pave the way for such a vote strongly opposed by presidential loyalists.
The Artarutyun deputies, notably Victor Dallakian, capitalized on a loophole in the National Assembly’s detailed statutes that allow for an automatic inclusion of legislative initiatives on the agenda under some circumstances. In this case, it took the form of the pro-Kocharian majority rejecting Dallakian’s request to postpone a parliament vote on whether or not to debate the issue.
The majority apparently did so from sheer inertia, after voting down a string of opposition initiatives, including the formation of ad hoc commissions to investigate electoral fraud and reasons for this year’s seven-month suspension of the trial of the five men that seized the assembly in October 1999.
Dallakian said afterwards that the parliament will now have to debate the referendum law amendments within 60 days in accordance with its statutes. The parliament leadership, however, did not make such a commitment.
Even if the debate takes place, most deputies will almost certainly reject the opposition proposals. Mindful of this, Artarutyun is using the issue to keep the public spotlight on serious irregularities which it believes cost it victory in this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
Kocharian and his allies say that the idea of a referendum of confidence is unconstitutional and runs counter to the Constitutional Court’s refusal to annul the official results of the disputed presidential ballot.