New Armenian Parliament Elects Leadership

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–During the opening session of Armenia’s National Assembly–deputies voted by 92 to 6 to elect the leader of the Orinats Yerkir party Artur Baghdasarian speaker of the National Assembly. They also overwhelmingly appointed Tigran Torosian of the Republican Party (HHK) and Vahan Hovannisian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) as vice deputies.

Catholicos Karekin II was present to offer blessings.

Addressing the lawmakers–Kocharian welcomed its achievement and quick implementation. "For the first time a parliamentary coalition has been formed in Armenia as a result of the elections," he said. "The process has been quite difficult."

Kocharian signed the previous night presidential decrees that appointed Orinats Yerkir and ARF members to the government of HHK leader Prime Minister Andranik Markarian. Orinats Yerkir will be represented in the cabinet by Education Minister Sergo Yeritsian–Culture Minister Tamara Poghosian and Urban Development Minister Ara Aramian. ARF representation in the cabinet include Social Security Minister Aghvan Vartanian–Agriculture Minister David Lokian and Health Minister Norayr Davidian.

The session began with a collective oath of allegiance to Armenia’s constitution given by the 100 or so deputies.

Opposition parliament members from Stepan Demirchian’s Artarutyun (Justice) alliance boycotted the session.

Pointing to irregularities during parliamentary elections–the ARF–nevertheless–agreed to forming a coalition in order to maintain political stability in Armenia. "We could have stepped aside and taken an opposition stance," said ARF Supreme Body Representative Armen Rustamian–"But we preferred this posture because it allows us to actively deal with pressing problems facing our people."

In addition to the ministerial portfolios and the post of vice-speaker–the ARF will head the parliament committee on foreign relations. Rustamian was elected its chairman later in the day. The two other coalition parties took over two committees each.

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