ARF Urges Legal Solution to Parliament Standoff

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–RFE/RL)– "The current situation contains elemen’s of parliamentary crisis–which makes the political forces analyze seriously the reasons and find legal solutions," a statement issued by the ARF faction in connection with the recent events in the parliament–reported the Noyan Tapan news agency.

The faction considers that the actions splitting the political atmosphere within the country shake the roots of statehood–opening the doors before the attempts to enhance foreign influence and to limit the independence of the country. The ARF deputies denounce the actions of the group of deputies–directed at breaking the work of legislative body. The authors of the statement urge all their colleagues to start an exclusively legal political struggle.

The faction urged the parliament heads and the president of the country to take all possible steps to remove the reasons of the present situation and defend the image of the country from illegal actions.

Meanwhile–The leader of the Armenian parliament’s largest faction which supports the government and President Robert Kocharian accused unspecified "superpowers" on Thursday of orchestrating the bitter political standoff that paralyzed the legislature this week–reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Galust Sahakian of the Unity faction said that the alliance of 13 opposition parties which disrupted the parliament proceedings was manipulated by external forces intent on destabilizing the political situation in Armenia. Although Sahakian refused to name them–he was understood to refer to either Russia or the United States – the two most influential external players in the region.

"They don’t need stability in the South Caucasus," he charged. "They can do what they want in Georgia and Azerbaijan–but not in Armenia."

Sahakian–who is a close ally of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian–was speaking to reporters after three days of fierce political battles over opposition attempts to have the parliament consider the possibility of impeaching Kocharian. Opposition deputies seized the National Assembly’s main rostrum on Monday and prevented everyone else from speaking from there–after speaker Armen Khachatrian rejected their deman’s to place the issue on the agenda.

Unity and other pro-presidential factions–including that of the influential Armenian Revolutionary Federation party–were also strongly opposed to an impeachment debate. They say that opposition claims that Kocharian has repeatedly violated the Armenian constitution are baseless and should not be even discussed.

The row specifically centered on a clause in the parliamentary statutes allowing every deputy to force a debate on any issue under some circumstances–without having to obtain the consent of at least one-third of the lawmakers. Khachatrian and the majority argued that the provision is not applicable to this particular case.

The parliament went into summer recess on Wednesday.

Meanwhile–the leader of another major parliamentary group–Hayastan–claimed on Thursday that during the standoff some pro-government deputies were "instructed" by the government to stoke tensions further and try to free the parliament podium by force. Miasnik Malkhasian said it was the presence of Hayastan deputies–who are affiliated with the influential Yerkrapah Union of Karabakh war veterans–that "restrained" them.

Hayastan members backed calls for an impeachment debate–although most of them are against Kocharian’s resignation. But some of them did sign an opposition petition listing the legal grounds for his impeachment.

A leading Hayastan member–Hakob Hakobian–on Tuesday shouted abuse at the parliament majority after one of its members punched an opposition deputy occupying the rostrum.

Kocharian has blamed the turmoil on the opposition and threatened to take unspecified measures to restore order in the assembly.

His stance was backed by the ARF on Thursday. In a statement–the nationalist party’s parliament faction urged the president and the parliament leadership to "remove the causes of the existing situation and protect the country’s authority against illegal actions." Its leader–Aghvan Vartanian–denied that the statement amounted to a call for dissolving the parliament.

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