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Opposition Party Won't Boycott Armenian Parliament

President Sarkisian has been accused of illegally trying to prolong his rule

President Sarkisian has been accused of illegally trying to prolong his rule

YEREVAN -- A leader of the Armenian opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party says it will not boycott parliament sessions or relinquish its seats in the National Assembly, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The five parliament deputies representing Zharangutyun walked out of the parliament on February 28, accusing President Serzh Sarkisian of seeking to illegally prolong his rule.

Party chairman Raffi Hovannisian condemned Sarkisian's new power-sharing agreement with his junior coalition partners. It calls for their "crushing victory" in parliamentary elections due to be held next year.

The party's governing council was supposed to decide on its further actions at a meeting held on March 6. However, the decision was delayed until March 13.

The walkout fuelled speculation that Zharangutyun could boycott parliament sessions or even surrender its parliament mandates.

But Stepan Safarian, the nominal head of the party's parliament faction, made clear that neither option will be accepted by the Zharangutyun leadership. "We have not discussed and will not discuss the issue of abandoning our [parliament] mandates," he said.

Safarian also said the Zharangutyun lawmakers will return to the parliament. "Of course, we will participate [in parliament sessions]," he said, adding that the party does not want to lose "resources which we earned thanks to popular votes."

Hovannisian, who served as Armenia's first foreign minister in 1992, made a surprise appearance at an antigovernment rally held in Yerevan on March 1 by the Armenian National Congress (HAK), a more influential opposition grouping. But he did not attempt to speak at the protest or join HAK leaders on the podium.

Relations between the two opposition groups have become increasingly distant in the past three years. Some Zharangutyun leaders have accused the HAK of seeking to impose its will on the entire opposition.

HAK representatives have dismissed such claims. One of them, Levon Zurabian, said last week that Hovannisian's party lacks the political clout to pose a serious threat to the authorities and should therefore join HAK in campaigning for a change in the country's government.