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By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Armenia’s two main opposition groups will not end their joint boycott of parliament’s sessions unless its pro-government majority embraces the idea of a national vote of confidence in President Robert Kocharian, an opposition lawmaker said on Friday.

According to Shavarsh Kocharian (no relation to the president) of the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance, the opposition remains adamant in insisting on the passage of its legal amendments that would allow for such a referendum. “We will not return until you state that you are prepared to discuss and pass amendments to the law on referendum.”

The parliament majority blocked debate on the issue late last month, saying that the idea is unconstitutional and not justified. Its leaders, including parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, met with representatives of the opposition minority earlier this week in a bid to overcome the standoff. But the meeting failed to resolve their differences, with Kocharian saying that the majority is not prepared for any concessions.

“We must achieve a situation where the parliament majority will take those steps related to the referendum under popular pressure,” he said.

But it remained unclear exactly what Artarutyun and the National Unity Party plan to do in the coming weeks. Kocharian’s comments highlighted differences inside Artarutyun over how to proceed. The bloc’s most radically party, Hanrapetutyun (Republic), is pushing for a nationwide campaign of street protests which it believes might lead to Kocharian’s resignation. Hanrapetutyun a complete opposition withdrawal from the National Assembly which would require opposition deputies to surrender their mandates.

Shavarsh Kocharian, however, spoke out against such a surrender and “reckless, drastic steps that might be deemed a violent overthrow of the government.” “What we are doing is aimed at and will led to the overthrow, but it will be really constitutional,” he said without elaborating.

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