Parliament Elects New Human Rights Defender

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–The Armenian Parliament elected Friday Armen Harutunian–an advisor to president Kocharian on constitutional law and rector of the state-run Public Administration School–Armenia’s second human rights defender.

Harutunian was supported by 87 of the 131 members of the assembly. His opposition challenger–Hrant Khachatrian–got only 28 votes.

"As human rights defender–I will be cooperating with all factions and deputies of the National Assembly," Harutunian told lawmakers after the announcemen’s of the vote results. "I will try to live up to your expectations."

Harutunian assured reporters after his election for a six-year term that he will seek to be independent of the executive branch. "I am ready to go against both the government and the opposition if human rights are violated," he said.

Last week–Harutunian failed to garner the required support of three-fifths of all deputies–when he was opposed by Ruben Torosian–nominated by the opposition. After the first round Torosian said he would not run for the post.

Out of 131 parliament members–118 took part in Friday’s secret ballot. Harutunian’s rival–Hrant Khachatrian–is an opposition lawmaker and head of a minor Constitutional Rights Union.

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