Coalition Parties Caution Opposition to Practice Vigilance

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–Responding to opposition calls to topple Armenia’s President–ARF National Assembly faction member Hrair Karapetian–pointing to the legitimacy of the government–said that attempts to disrupt law and order would be countered.

"We admonish those announcemen’s whose authors not only insult–but succeed in also assaulting and degrading the majority of the population which voted for the authorities–that assail the president of the republic–as well as those forces assisting the government. Such announcemen’s seek to only dissolve the country’s governmental structure–and splinter society to bring about irrevocable consequences," Karapetian warned during a special session of parliament during which factions and individual deputies are able to read out statemen’s on any issue.

Karapetian offered–instead–the carrying out of political clashes in a healthy political arena.

"I call on all political forces to sit at the round table and refrain from making calls disseminating hatred and hostility," said Samvel Balasanian–the parliamentary leader of the Orinats Yerkir Party–the Republican Party’s (HHK) junior coalition partner.

"There is still time and political forces must display the will to address the country’s problems through dialogue and political mechanisms," said Samvel Nikoyan–a senior lawmaker from the Republican Party (HHK). "We are prepared to shoulder responsibility for organizing such a dialogue."

Opposition leaders–however–said they remain determined to try to oust President Robert Kocharian with sustained street protests planned for the beginning of next month.

The opposition lawmakers–who have been boycotting regular National Assembly sessions for more than a month–showed up to take the opportunity to spread their tough anti-Kocharian message. They were quick to dismiss the coalition offer. "We are ready for dialogue with any political force provided that Kocharian resigns," said Victor Dallakian of the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance.

Dallakian added that Artarutyun and the opposition National Unity Party will jointly start "the process of toppling Kocharian’s regime" before April 13. "Together we are united and determined to fulfill the people’s will–restore constitutional order and form a legitimate government in Armenia," he said.

President Kocharian–through a spokesman–warned that opposition threats to force him into resignation with street protests are unconstitutional and will be dealt with accordingly. "The opposition has adopted a baseless and aggressive position," the presidential press secretary Ashot Kocharian said.

"The opposition actions carry elemen’s running counter to criminal legislation. In particular–there are calls for a violent regime change."

"Unsanctioned rallies are fraught with criminally punishable actions directed against public order," the spokesman warned.

The opposition has promised a campaign of demonstrations outside the presidential palace and parliament building in Yerevan similar to the November "revolution of roses" in neighboring Georgia. "Kocharian may not resign–but he will be unable to control the situation and govern the country de facto," said another Artarutyun leader Albert Bazeyan.

Armenia’s leading businessmen have expressed concern at the mounting political tensions. In a joint statement issued late Monday–they effectively sided with the authorities–saying that a destabilization of the political situation would have negative effects on the struggling Armenian economy. The statement was read out by the chairman of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Arsen Ghazarian.

"I myself see no danger in [peaceful] rallies," Ghazarian said. "That is the constitutional right of our citizens. I only hope that that it will be done in accordance with the law and the constitution."

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