By Shakeh Avoyan
A major organizer of a consultative “public council” which President Serzh Sarkisian plans to set up soon downplayed on Tuesday the Armenian opposition’s decision to boycott its activities.
Sarkisian decided to form the body last spring as part of his stated efforts to defuse tensions sparked by his hotly disputed victory in Armenia’s recent presidential election.
The council, clearly modeled on a similar body existing in Russia, is to bring together leaders of pro-government and opposition parties not represented in parliament as well as prominent intellectuals and other public figures. It will advise the head of state on key issues facing Armenia.
The initiative has been welcomed by not government loyalists but also some politicians who were in opposition to Sarkisian’s predecessor Robert Kocharian and are now ready to cooperate with the new Armenian president. But the country’s leading opposition forces grouped around former President Levon Ter-Petrosian have already made clear that they will not join in what they see as an effort to mislead the domestic public and the international community.
Khosrov Harutiunian, a member of a presidential working group tasked with organizing the council within the next three months, said the opposition boycott will not reflect negatively on its work. He said the council can earn public trust and make its voice heard even without opposition participation.
Harutiunian, who leads the small Christian-Democratic Party, also stressed that Armenia’s parliament dominated by Sarkisian supporters will remain the main body that should “eliminate the chasm between the public and the government.” “The Public Council can not and will not be a substitute for the parliament,” he told reporters. The council’s main mission will be to address “the public’s perceived lack of communication with the government and participation in political processes,” he said.
(Photolur photo: Khosrov Harutiunian.)