Opposition Continues Gran’standing in Parliament

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian is facing another challenge in parliament after opposition deputies launched an initiative that would simplify the legal procedure for his impeachment.

An opposition motion put by the center-right Homeland group would abrogate a clause in the parliament’s regulations stipulating that the National Assembly can not vote to impeach the president unless the Constitutional Court finds grounds for that.

The move is the latest manifestation of the opposition’s toughening anti-Kocharian rhetoric that resulted into a confrontation earlier this month during debates in parliament on a number of controversial privatization deals.

The opposition that includes supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan has been infuriated by Kocharian’s perceived "unconstitutional" blocking of the issue’s discussion.

Under the Armenian constitution–the president can be removed from office for committing "high treason or other grave crimes."

The head of state can be ousted by two thirds of parliament deputies "on the basis of a ruling by the Constitutional Court." However–the basic law does not specify what that ruling must be.

The opposition initiative is widely seen as an attempt to gain an additional lever over Kocharian–who has sweeping powers under Armenian law. Homeland leader Eduard Yegorian earlier said Kocharian’s stance on the privatization controversy provides legal grounds for his impeachment. It is still unclear whether opposition factions–including the pro-Ter-Petrosyan Republic–will follow suit.

The motion is being debated at an emergency session of parliament called on the demand of 70 out of its 190 deputies. The agenda also includes draft amendmen’s in the existing laws on taxation and privatization which may be at odds with the government’s policy.

The opposition will try form an hoc commission to look into the financial state of the recently privatized Yerevan brandy factory and Armenia’s two biggest hotels. In early October–the opposition fell short of only a few votes to revoke their sell-offs to foreign investors.

The volatile majority of parliament is largely loyal to Kocharian. But it showed first cracks during the voting on the controversial deals after some of the pro-government deputies aligned themselves with the opposition.

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