The Armenian parliament voted on February 24 to extend for a further seven months
, until September 15, the mandate of the ad hoc parliament commission set up last summer to investigate the circumstances that culminated in the violent clashes in Yerevan on March 1-2 between police and security forces and supporters of defeated presidential candidate and former President Levon Ter-Petrossian.
Samvel Nikoyan, who chairs the ad hoc commission, announced last week that he would request an extension of the commission's mandate, which would otherwise have expired on February 25.
The seven deputies from Zharangutiun (Heritage), the only opposition party represented in parliament, abstained from the vote, saying there is no valid reason to prolong the commission's mandate. Zharangutiun was invited to nominate a representative to the ad hoc commission, but declined to do so.
Meeting on February 21, Zharangutiun's Governing Council decided against relinquishing
its parliament mandates to protest the authorities' failure to take effective measures to end the political standoff triggered by last year's post-election violence.
The council issued a statement explaining that to quit the parliament would be tantamount to depriving the opposition of a vital forum to air its views, and would also be a betrayal of the thousands of Armenians who cast their ballots for Zharangutiun in the May 2007 parliamentary election. At the same time, the council deplored the fact that there are still "dozens" of political prisoners in Armenia, and that prominent oppositionists arrested in the aftermath of the March 1-2 violence are currently on trial.