The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) said on Friday that it still hopes to reach a consensus with the government about new legislation that will influence the outcome of next year’s parliamentary elections.
“Nobody should bury the idea of consensus,” said Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader. “We still have something to do.”
Zurabian spoke the day after the government pushed through the parliament, in the first reading, a new Electoral Code which Armenian opposition and civic groups say precludes the proper conduct of the elections due in May 2017. The HAK boycotted parliament debates on the code in protest against the government’s refusal to accept any of the key amendments proposed by the opposition.
The National Assembly voted on the crucial government bill right after what Zurabian and other opposition lawmakers described as serious procedural violations committed by its pro-government speaker, Galust Sahakian.
“We call on the authorities to really sober up and avoid such chicanery,” Zurabian told a news conference. “If we are to jointly confront external threats, they must ensure an appropriate level of their actions. Or else, the public would have no faith.”
But Vahram Baghdasarian, his opposite number from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), flatly denied any wrongdoing. He also said the fact that 98 of the 131 parliament deputies voted for the code amounts to a political consensus on the issue.
The government and the HHK refused to make significant concessions to the opposition even after the HAK’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, urged the Armenian opposition to put aside its differences with President Serzh Sarkisian due to the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ter-Petrosian and Sarkisian unexpectedly met on April 9 to discuss Armenia’s response to hostilities in Karabakh that broke out on April 2.
Ter-Petrosian chaired a meeting of his party’s governing board later on Friday. An HAK statement indicated that the meeting focused on the “new situation and possible developments” in the Karabakh conflict zone.
It said Ter-Petrosian and his allies also discussed “the emergence of a new internal political situation in the context of the Karabakh problem and the HAK’s activities in the National Assembly.” No other details were reported.