By Astghik Bedevian
President Robert Kocharian and leaders of his governing coalition were meeting late Monday to discuss who should become the next speaker of Armenia’s parliament and head two of its standing committees.
Leaders of the pro-presidential majority in the National Assembly told RFE/RL that Kocharian is not against giving the number two post in the Armenian state hierarchy to deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian.
Earlier in the day, the outgoing speaker, Artur Baghdasarian, formally ceased to perform his duties, reaffirming his decision to step down which was made ten days ago. “In accordance with the National Assembly statutes, I am relinquishing the duties of National Assembly chairman,” he told reporters in a parliament hall adorned with the pictures of his four predecessors. None of them served for a full term in office.
Baghdasarian refused to answer any questions, saying that he wants to “leave in peace.” “We will strive create an Armenia which we cherish in our dreams, an Armenia which people will return to, rather than flee,” he concluded, referring to his Orinats Yerkir Party.
The party’s exit from Kocharian’s cabinet left a host of high-level vacancies in the executive branch. Most of them have been given to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the small United Labor Party (MAK) that joined the ruling coalition last week.
The parliament vacancies have yet to be filled. Vahan Hovannisian, the second vice-speaker, said the 131-member National Assembly will meet for an emergency session on Wednesday to elect its new speaker and the chairmen of its committees on security and social affairs.
Torosian, who is affiliated with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK), did not deny that he is Baghdasarian’s most likely successor. Speaking to RFE/RL, he said he will consider his new job as “yet another duty.”
It is still not clear who will get Torosian’s current job. The leader of the HHK’s parliament faction, Galust Sahakian, did not rule out the possibility of giving it to a member of a newly created parliamentary group made up of ten wealthy businessmen that defected from Orinats Yerkir under government pressure earlier this month.
According to Sahakian, a member of the Dashnaktsutyun faction in the assembly, Aramayis Grigorian, is set to take over as chairman of the parliament committee on defense and security. Grigorian owns a vodka distillery in southern Armenia and is not officially affiliated with Dashnaktsutyun.
Sahakian said the parliament majority leaders have also decided to give the vacant post of chairman of the parliament committee on social affairs to one of the six lawmakers representing the MAK. “All these posts must be distributed in a way that will sustain balance in the political field,” he told RFE/RL.
(Presidential press service photo)