Unity Parties Come Close to Reconciliation

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In a surprise U-turn over its plans to reshuffle the governing coalition–the Republican Party of Armenia of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian signaled on Tuesday that it is ready for a reconciliation with its partner in the Unity bloc–the People’s Party. Leaders of the two parties announced that they are close to agreement on preventing the bloc’s final split.

The Republicans have been at the forefront of a campaign to unseat parliament speaker Armen Khachatrian–a senior People’s Party member–which was seen as part of their broader efforts to squeeze the center-left party out of government structures. The multi-partisan challenge against Khachatrian last week ended in controversy over the acceptance of his resignation. President Robert Kocharian on Monday asked the Constitutional Court to decide whether the resignation was accepted in accordance with the law–in a bid to overcome the legal deadlock.

Republican leader Tigran Torosian–who was one of the main candidates for the post of speaker–said his party has not yet made a final decision to restore links with the People’s Party. Torosian is thought to be in favor of Unity’s break-up. But other sources said that premier Markarian has already made up his mind and informed leaders of five other parliamentary parties–which sided with the Republican Party last week–about the sudden reversal of his position. The parties–among them the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and National Democratic Union–were said to have been taken aback by the news late on Monday. But it was not clear whether President Robert Kocharian approved of the new twist in the country’s political life.

Political observers suggested that Markarian–whose party does not control the parliament–has come to the conclusion that the backing of People’s PaRty deputies will be critical for continuing to push his government’s initiatives through the National Assembly.

Meanwhile–the political future of speaker Khachatrian continued to hang in the balance–with all eyes focused on the Constitutional Court. "Any decision by the Constitutional Court on the issue must be accepted," Torosian told reporters. He said the Court may deliver its verdict before the next parliament session due on Monday.

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