Parliament Asks ARF To Continue Chairing Committees on Defense, Foreign Affairs

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s leadership offered the Armenian Revolutionary Federation on Wednesday an opportunity to continue to serve in two major posts in parliament despite its departure from the governing coalition.

ARF leaders strongly hinted at their likely acceptance of the offer, which was publicly voiced by parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian.

In accordance with its March 2008 power-sharing agreement with President Serzh Sarkisian, the party was given three ministerial and several vice-ministerial portfolios in the government. ARF leaders also continued to occupy one of the two posts of deputy speaker and to chair two standing committees of the National Assembly.

The ARF pulled out of the four-party coalition on Monday in protest against Sarkisian’s diplomatic overtures to Turkey. All of its members holding positions in the executive and legislative branches tendered their resignations as a result.

Speaking on behalf of the Sarkisian administration, Abrahamian urged the ARF to allow Armen Rustamian and Artur Aghabekian to continue to serve as chairmen of the parliament committees on foreign affairs and defense respectively. He cited a 2008 legal amendment that entitles opposition lawmakers to head some of the National Assembly panels.

“True, this change will apply to the next parliament,” Abrahamian said during a parliament session. “Nevertheless, the political coalition is urging the Armenian Revolutionary Federation faction to withdraw, while being in opposition, Armen Rustamian’s and Artur Aghabekian’s resignations.”

Vahan Hovannisian, the ARF’s parliamentary leader, thanked the ruling coalition for the offer. “We will discuss the proposal and present our response to the National Assembly chairman,” he said.

The ARF’s governing Supreme Body in Armenia was expected to meet and discuss the matter later on Wednesday. Rustamian, who is the chairman of the body, indicated that he is in favor of accepting the government offer. “It would be good if we laid the foundation for a new [government-opposition] relationship,” he said.

Artashes Shahbazian, another ARF lawmaker, took a similar view, citing the need to “form a new political culture” in the country. “It was not a wrong proposal, especially given that we wished the coalition success in our statement,” he told RFE/RL.

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