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Dashnaks Offered To Keep Parliament Posts


Armenian Revolutionary Federation leaders Vahan Hovannisian, left, and Hrant Markarian speak with President Serzh Sarkisian.

Armenia’s leadership offered the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) on Wednesday to continue to control two major posts in parliament despite its departure from the governing coalition.

Dashnaktsutyun leaders strongly hinted at their likely acceptance of the offer publicly voiced by parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian.

In a accordance with its March 2008 power-sharing agreement with President Serzh Sarkisian, the influential nationalist party was given three ministerial and several vice-ministerial portfolios in the government. Dashnaktsutyun leaders also continued to occupy one of the two posts of deputy speaker and to chair two standing committees of the National Assembly.

Dashnaktsutyun pulled out of the four-party coalition on Monday in protest against Sarkisian’s diplomatic overtures to Turkey. All of its members holding positions in the executive and legislative branches tendered their resignations as a result.

Speaking on behalf of the Sarkisian administration, Abrahamian urged Dashnaktsutyun to allow Armen Rustamian and Artur Aghabekian to continue to serve as chairmen of the parliament committees on foreign affairs and defense respectively. He cited a 2008 legal amendment that entitles opposition lawmakers to heading some of the National Assembly panels.

“True, this change will apply to the next parliament,” Abrahamian said during a parliament session. “Nevertheless, the political coalition is urging the Armenian Revolutionary Federation faction to withdraw, while being in opposition, Armen Rustamian’s and Artur Aghabekian’s resignations.”

Vahan Hovannisian, Dashnaktsutyun’s parliamentary leader, thanked and praised the ruling coalition for the offer. “We will discuss the proposal and present our response to the National Assembly chairman,” he said.

Dashnaktsutyun’s governing Supreme Body in Armenia was expected to meet and discuss the matter later on Wednesday. Rustamian, who is also the de facto head of the body, indicated that he is in favor of accepting the government offer. “It would be good if we laid the foundation of a new [government-opposition] relationship,” he said.

Artashes Shahbazian, another Dashnaktsutyun lawmaker, took a similar view, citing the need to “form a new political culture” in the country. “It was not a wrong proposal, especially given that we wished the coalition success in our statement,” he told RFE/RL.

Shahbazian insisted that by retaining the two parliament posts his party would not give more ammunition to those opposition leaders who say that Dashnaktsutyun will continue to secretly cooperate with Sarkisian despite its exit from the government. “We have abandoned our government posts that were given to us as a result of political agreements,” he said. “But we didn’t enter the parliament as a result of political agreements.”
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