Armenian Parliament in Impasse Over Speaker’s Resignation

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The session of the Armenian parliament was on Wednesday brought to a halt by the majority of its members who claim that speaker Armen Khachatrian is "illegally" clinging to his post. The Republican Party (HHK) led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and several other parties effectively boycotted the parliament session–demanding that Khachatrian stand by his decision to step down. A joint statement issued by the HHK–Armenian Revolutionary Federation–National Democratic Union and Orinats Yerkir parties and the Kayunutyun parliamentary group condemned the speaker’s stance as "an attempt to usurp power."

"Sessions presided by him cannot be legal," Tigran Torosian–one of Khachatrian’s two deputies representing the HHK–told RFE/RL. The crisis followed Tuesday’s heated debates that ended in a row over whether the speaker’s offer to resign can be deemed formally accepted by the National Assembly. The resignation was approved by only 63 members of the 131-seat assembly. The speaker and his supporters claimed that at least 66 votes were needed for the decision to have a legal force. But their opponents led by the Republican Party of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian countered that its approval by the majority of deputies present at the session was sufficient. The existing parliament regulations are rather ambiguous on the number of votes needed for the formal acceptance of the speaker’s resignation.

Meeting on Wednesday–the parliament could not make a quorum–with only three dozen deputies mainly representing the People’s and Communist parties of Armenia registering for the session. However–Khachatrian was adamant in his decision to continue to head the legislative–defying the concerted multi-partisan onslaught. "My resignation wasn’t accepted yesterday–so I continue to perform my duties," he told reporters.

The speaker’s challengers claimed to have collected 72 signatures for unseating Khachatrian but insisted that he "respect the law" and resign. According to the leader of Orinats Yerkir–Artur Baghdasarian–Khachatrian has asked for one more day of deliberations–promising to give his answer after President Robert Kocharian–who is currently visiting Russia–returns to Armenia.

Kocharian’s position is seen as extremely important for further political developmen’s. The head of state appears to have not objected to the Republican’s decision to change the parliament leadership. "I anticipate that he will stand by me," Khachatrian said.

But Miasnik Malkhasian–the leader of the Hayastan parliamentary group uniting deputies affiliated with the Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans–warned that Khachatrian will face more challenges if he refuses to quit.

Meanwhile–a leading member of the People’s Party of Armenia–Gurgen Yeghiazarian–told RFE/RL that it will now "think about creating a new [legislative] majority" but gave no details.

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