Instability Plagues Stability Faction

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A key member of Armenia’s governing coalition which has the second-largest faction in parliament denied on Monday reports that it is on the brink of a split. Leaders of the Stability group said none of its members has been expelled for challenging their leadership.

The Yerevan daily "Hayots Ashkhar" claimed on Saturday that the parliamentary group uniting two dozen non-partisan deputies decided the previous day to expel its former head–Hovannes Hovannisian–and a rank-and-file member–Vrezh Shahgeldian–from its ran’s. Both men firmly denied the report.

Hovannisian–who heads the parliament’s committee on foreign affairs–was reportedly behind last month’s revolt against Satability’s present chairman–Vartan Ayvazian. On Monday he again denied the existence of serious frictions inside the group–admitting only minor "objective difficulties" resulting from the lack of political experience.

"I think it is time for those rumors to disappear–he told RFE/RL. "I don’t see anything serious," he added later in the interview.

Other sources–however–said that Stability deputies will meet later this week to discuss the simmering tensions. Ayvazian refused to comment on the information though.

Stability’s continued support is vital for Prime Minister Andranik Markarian who relies on it to push government bills through the National Assembly. The group’s backing proved decisive for the parliament’s approval last week of government plans to privatize Armenia’s energy distribution enterprises.

Stability–which controls two ministerial portfolios–decided earlier this year to transform itself into a political party with a "social-democratic" platform. But it is still unclear when the new organization will apply for registration.

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