Kocharian Meets Parliament Allies Pledging Closer Cooperation

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian on Thursday discussed various aspects of government policy with his main allies in parliament–the deputies from the largest Yerkrapah group–assuring them of the importance of their continued support.

"The Yekrapah group is the government’s support base in the National Assembly and a close cooperation between them is a necessary condition for the latter’s effective work," the presidential press service quoted Kocharian as telling the Yerkrapah deputies.

The meeting–a second in its kind since an outburst of opposition activity in parliament earlier this month–discussed Yerkrapah’s relationship with the president and government as well as "issues pertaining to all major spheres of state policy," the presidential office said.

The meeting came as Kocharian faces a new challenge from his opponents in parliament–who this week proposed to simplify the legal procedure for the president’s impeachment. Voting on the initiative was postponed on Wednesday for two weeks.

The opposition has been angered by what it sees as Kocharian’s "unconstitutional" efforts to prevent parliament debates on the government’s privatization policy. Earlier this month–the opposition factions–joined by a dozen Yerkrapah deputies–failed by just a few votes to revoke a number of privatization deals signed with foreign investors.

Yerkrapah’s failure to formulate a unanimous position on the government’s economic policy may result from what its leaders have called emerging "working differences" over ways to implement Kocharian’s election platform.

According to the presidential service–the Yerkrapah deputies told Kocharian that more frequent contacts with the government are "essential for the group’s position on issues to be discussed in the National Assembly."

Originally founded by the powerful Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian as a non-government organization protecting interests of Karabakh war veterans–the Yerkrapah Union was a key instrument in Kocharian’s rise to the Armenian presidency.

The organization’s 77-strong group in the 190-seat parliament is mostly composed of defectors from the former majority Hanrapetutyun (Republic) faction of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan.

Among other issues discussed at Thursday’s meeting with Kocharian was Armenia’s new election law which is to be adopted before the next parliamentary elections in 1999. Yerkrapah is at odds with most of Armenia’s political groups–including another major Kocharian ally–the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–which prefer the system of proportional representation.

The defense minister’s loyalists want most parliament seats to be allocated in single-mandate constituencies.

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