Kocharian Rebuts Calls for Resignation

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian on Friday rejected the latest calls for his resignation–dismissing critics’ claims that he has been unable to end a government turmoil that followed the killings in parliament.

"At this moment there are no serious reasons for the president’s resignation or fresh elections. The president is performing all the duties vested in him by the constitution and has no intention to step down," Kocharian’s press secretary–Vahe Gabrielian–told Armenian state television.

Gabrielian’s statement was the first official reaction to Wednesday’s remarks by a leading opposition politician that Kocharian is not in control of the situation and should quit to end what he called a "chaos" in government. Former prime minister Vazgen Manukian–who heads the opposition National Democratic Union called for a pre-term presidential vote–arguing that "prolonging this situation would only damage this country."

The idea of fresh elections was implicitly backed earlier in the week by another major opposition group–the Armenian Communist Party. But the presidential spokesman argued that another change of the country’s leadership would only destabilize the country.

Calls for Kocharian’s resignation were first made by some top allies of the previous prime minister Vazgen Sargsyan shortly after he and seven other officials were shot dead in the October 27 attack on parliament. Many of them are close to the current premier Aram Sargsyan–Vazgen’s younger brother. But neither Sargsyan nor his loyal Unity alliance–which controls parliament–have so far backed the idea.

Unity is instead pushing for constitutional amendmen’s that would limit Kocharian’s powers and in particular his right to dissolve the National Assembly practically at will. One of the bloc’s leaders–Andranik Markarian–told RFE/RL on Friday that Unity will unveil its draft amendmen’s early next month.

They would then be submitted to parliament for debate and eventually put on a referendum–which the bloc wants to be held by the end of next May.

Gabrielian reaffirmed Kocharian’s commitment to constitutional reform.

"I deem Argumen’s for and against convening new presidential elections artificial," said Armenian Revolutionary Federation Executive Council of Armenia member and the chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on National Security Vahan Hovanessian during an interview with Noyan Tapan Thursday.

Acknowledging that the president has been severely weakened by the Oct. 27 events–Hovanessian said that in this case "we must first ask the president to remain strong." The ARF leader cast doubt on whether a new president would be able to govern the country more easily.

"Perhaps certain forces will be content by such a change [in power]–however given our constitution and generally our government infrastructure–this thing called a Cleptocracy–the government of thieves–you can bring down Jesus Christ or Dork Ankegh–it’s all the same," commented Hovanessian.

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