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Opposition To Continue Parliament Boycott

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Armenia’s biggest opposition alliance, Artarutyun (Justice), decided on Wednesday to continue its almost year-long boycott of parliament sessions, saying that the authorities have failed to meet any of their demands.

But Artarutyun leaders said more than a dozen lawmakers representing the bloc could attend parliament debates on “crucial” issues such reform of the constitution and electoral legislation. Furthermore, they indicated that they could endorse a package of amendments drafted by President Robert Kocharian if the parliament majority loyal to the latter accepts their proposals.

Those proposals would give the National Assembly a central role in the formation of governments and make the mayor of Yerevan an elected official. The mayor is appointed by the president under the existing constitution. The opposition also wants to scrap the presidential authority to appoint members of Armenia’s Justice Council that nominates virtually all judges and can recommend their dismissal.

The Artarutyun proposals were endorsed later in the day by the leadership of Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity Party (AMK), the second opposition group represented in parliament.

Victor Dallakian, a member of Artarutyun’s governing board, warned that the opposition will scuttle Kocharian’s second attempt at constitutional reform, demanded by the Council of Europe, if its ideas are rejected. “If they don’t accept, we will turn the constitutional referendum [expected this summer] into a referendum of confidence in Kocharian,” he declared.

The authorities’ refusal to hold such a confidence vote, suggested by the Constitutional Court in 2003, was the main stated reason for the opposition lawmakers’ decision to walk out of the National Assembly. The move precipitated last spring’s campaign of anti-Kocharian street protests staged by Artarutyun and the AMK.

In an unsuccessful bid to prevent the unrest, the parliament majority offered the opposition at the time to work out constitutional amendments by consensus. It is not known if the offer is still in force.

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