By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A prominent independent lawmaker called on Wednesday for a parliamentary investigation into the bloody post-election unrest in Yerevan, saying that it is vital for defusing Armenia’s most serious political crisis in nearly a decade.
Victor Dallakian said the Armenian parliament should form an ad hoc commission that will investigate circumstances of the March 1 clashes between riot police and thousands of supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian who barricaded themselves in the city center. He said the commission should consist of members of all parliament factions, two deputies not affiliated with any party as well as Ter-Petrosian or one of his representatives.
“Political process must move to the National Assembly, and the National Assembly must take on a serious role in our country’s political life,” Dallakian told RFE/RL.
The Armenian authorities say that the clashes, which left at least eight people dead, were part of a coup plot hatched by Ter-Petrosian months before the February 19 presidential election. More than a hundred supporters of the opposition leader have already been arrested on related charges. Ter-Petrosian and his allies insist that the authorities themselves orchestrated the violence to quell their popular movement for a re-run of the disputed vote.
For their part, the European Union and international human bodies, indicating their distrust in the ongoing criminal investigation, have urged the authorities to agree to an independent inquiry of the unrest. Outgoing President Robert Kocharian effectively dismissed the idea last week.
Dallakian, who used to play a key role in past opposition protests in Yerevan but now has a more neutral stance on the government, formally circulated his motion to set up the parliamentary body on Monday. Relevant standing committees of the National Assembly have to consider and present their opinion on the motion within 30 days. Dallakian can also include the bill on the parliament agenda by having it co-sponsored by at least one third of fellow deputies.
“Of course, the idea has been, so to speak, on surface right from the beginning,” parliament speaker Tigran Torosian told RFE/RL, commenting on the initiative. “However, it is very important to clarify, as a result of discussions with parliament factions, whether this is the best way to resolve the existing issues. If so, what concrete tasks must be set for the commission and what must be the mechanisms for the commission’s work?”
The parliamentary inquiry is part of Dallakian’s broader package of proposals which he believes would resolve the political crisis. Those call, among other things, for the holding of snap parliamentary elections next year, the release of all arrested opposition activists who were not involved in violent acts and the reopening of two independent TV stations taken off the air in 2002.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Dallakian warned that the authorities will risk turning Armenia into a “rogue state” unless they end their post-election crackdown on the Ter-Petrosian-led opposition. He implied at the same time that Ter-Petrosian should recognize the legitimacy of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s election victory.
Two other major presidential candidates, Orinats Yerkir Party leader Artur Baghdasarian and Vahan Hovannisian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), have already done so. Their parties will be represented in a new coalition government which Sarkisian plans to form after taking office on April 9.
Sarkisian, Baghdasarian and Hovannisian won between them more than 70 percent of the vote, according to the Central Election Commission. Their power-sharing agreement was also signed last week by Gagik Tsarukian, the leader of the pro-Kocharian Prosperous Armenia Party.
Nonetheless, Dallakian insisted that the new governing coalition will not be representing the vast majority of Armenians. “People voted for Artur Baghdasarian and Vahan Hovannisian because of their opposition stance,” he said. “And the fact that Baghdasarian and Hovannisian have joined the coalition doesn’t mean that that opposition electorate agrees with that.”
(Photolur photo: Victor Dallakian.)