Armenian Parliament Elects Torosian as New Speaker

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Armenpress)–Armenia’s Parliament elected Tigran Torosian as its new speaker on Thursday–replacing Artur Baghdasarian after his Orinats Yerkir party withdrew from the ruling coalition.

The National Assembly voted for him by 94 to 1–with a small number of opposition members boycotting the vote.

Torosian–50–is a senior member of Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK)–which has the largest faction in the parliament and is the biggest of the three parties represented in Armenia’s Government. An engineer by training–he served as parliament vice-speaker until now.

Baghdasarian said before the secret ballot that he and eight other lawmakers remaining in the Orinats Yerkir faction will unanimously vote for Torosian–praising his former deputy as "one of the few professionals in our parliament."

"I think that his personal and professional qualities make him fit to run the National Assembly," said the ex-speaker.

Opposition deputies who took part in a debate preceding the vote also commended those qualities–but claimed that Torosian will not make any difference in the Armenian political stage in his new capacity. They dismissed the parliament as a rubber stamp body that has little impact on government policies.

"We are faced with very difficult problems and serious challenges," Torosian said in his acceptance speech. "I am sure that those of our colleagues who did not take part in the election agree that we are facing such challenges," he added–referring to the opposition minority that boycotted the vote.

In his speech–the new speaker said one of the key challenges facing Armenia is to holding "democratic elections" next year and in 2008. He said Armenia is facing a serious challenge now of proving that it is moving in the right direction

"The 2007 parliamentary elections will be of paramount significance to us in order to dissipate the international community’s apprehensions that we are no longer able to ensure free and democratic polls. We have no alternatives–but fair elections–a key factor to improve our life," he said.

He said that Armenian authorities have to revise the country’s legislation to bring it in line with constitutional amendmen’s adopted in last November’s referendum.

Torosian also pointed out the necessity of shaping a proper political climate in Parliament to win back the respect of citizens.

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