By Armen Zakarian
Opposition leader Artashes Geghamian claimed Wednesday that the Armenian authorities have tried to convince reserve candidates from the electoral list of his National Unity Party (AMK) to replace AMK lawmakers if the latter lose their seats for boycotting parliament sessions.
The AMK began the boycott along with the other opposition group represented in parliament, the Artarutyun bloc, last February in protest against its pro-government majority’s refusal to consider a “referendum of confidence” in President Robert Kocharian. The move was followed by their joint unsuccessful attempt to unseat Kocharian with street protests which heightened political tensions in Armenia.
The authorities, mindful of the boycott’s negative impact on their image abroad, have been trying to get the opposition minority to resume its participation in the National Assembly’s work with pledges to give it a say in the legislative process. They have at the same time threatened to revoke the mandates of the opposition deputies.
Armenian law allows the parliament to recall deputies that fail to attend its sessions for “unjustified” reasons. According to some press reports, one of the options considered by the authorities is to do just that and fill the vacant parliament seats with individuals that failed to win mandates through the AMK’s and Artarutyun’s proportional representation lists in last year’s elections. The law allows them to take the place of lawmakers leaving the parliament.
According to Geghamian, the AMK’s reserve candidates have been approached with such an offer but none of them will accept it. “Candidates included in National Unity’s electoral list are all experienced and mature individuals, and I don’t think that the authorities … can spoil them,” he said.
“The National Unity Party will come up with a statement that will detail disgraceful actions witnessed by it over the past two months,” he said.
Geghamian also shrugged off recent claims by a leading member of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that he has already decided to end the boycott. He said the AMK will make a decision early next month.
The question of whether or not to return to the parliament is expected to top the agenda of Friday’s meeting of Artarutyun’s governing board. Most of its members are thought to support the boycott’s continuation.