By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The ten lawmakers who have defected from the Orinats Yerkir party of the outgoing parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian are forming a new non-partisan parliamentary group loyal to Armenia’s government, it emerged on Wednesday.
One of the defectors, Mekhak Mkhitarian, told RFE/RL that the group, which has no name yet, will officially announce its creation at the next sitting of the National Assembly on Monday. He refused to be drawn on its political agenda and objectives.
All of the ten deputies are wealthy businessmen dependent on the government. They defected from Orinats Yerkir’s parliament faction in a matter of days, precipitating Baghdasarian’s resignation and his party’s withdrawal from the governing coalition late last week.
Armenian media reports have said the defections were engineered by President Robert Kocharian. The authorities deny this, however. The defectors, for their part, have refused to provide clear explanations for their actions so far.
Under the existing National Assembly statutes, a non-partisan group must consist of at least ten deputies in order to have an official status similar to one enjoyed by the parliamentary factions of Armenia’s leading parties and blocs.
The 131-member assembly has already had one such group, the People’s Deputy, that holds 16 seats and is likewise made up of wealthy lawmakers loyal to Kocharian. Unlike the People’s Deputy, the former Orinats Yerkir deputies will not have legally guaranteed seats in each of the commissions in charge of holding national and local elections in the country.
Orinats Yerkir will also continue to control one of the nine commission seats despite the fact that its parliament faction has shrunk by more than half and currently numbers only nine members.