By Astghik BedevianThe Armenian parliament failed to make a quorum on Tuesday in what opposition lawmakers described as a deliberate effort to deny them a rare chance to spread their message through state television.
The 131 members of the National Assembly have a legal right to read out statements once in every three weeks. The parliament’s statutes reserve that session for Tuesday afternoon. The government-controlled Armenian Public Television is obliged to broadcast them in full the next evening. Opposition leaders, who are rare guests at Armenia’s number one TV channel, have frequently used that opportunity to attack the government
Tuesday’s statement session was due to be the first since the November 27 constitutional referendum that has reignited political tensions in the country. Members of the parliament’s opposition minority planned to reiterate their allegations of massive vote rigging which are denied by the authorities.
It became obvious that they will fail to do so when only 21 deputies turned up in the morning. Their number rose to 40 by mid-day but it was still insufficient for the for the parliament to convene a sitting. Its statutes require the presence of at least 66 deputies.
“There would have been many statements on the referendum today,” said Arshak Sadoyan of the opposition Artarutyun faction. “This is the reason [for the lack of quorum]. This is a boycott planned by the authorities.”
But speaker Artur Baghdasarian implicitly denied this, saying that he himself is concerned about the poor attendance of parliament sessions. “All deputies are obliged to attend them,” he told reporters.
“It’s probably because of fog,” Baghdasarian’s deputy Vahan Hovannisian observed sarcastically. “They can’t find their way [to parliament].”
Other parliament majority claimed that many lawmakers could not attend the session because they left for the northern Lori region to attend a seminar dedicated to the 17th anniversary of the catastrophic 1988 earthquake which will be officially marked on Wednesday.