The Armenian parliament yesterday voted 155 to 0 to lift the parliamentary immunity of eight opposition deputies, including presidential candidate Vazgen Manukian, whose coalition of five parties has claimed victory against incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrosian in the September 22 presidential election. Four of the eight deputies were taken away from the chamber by police, and several were struck by pro-government deputies. Manukian is said to have gone into hiding. The move against the deputies reduces almost to naught the opposition’s representation in parliament. Security forces also closed and sealed the offices of several opposition parties. National Self-Determination Union leader Paruir Hayrikian announced his party’s withdrawal from the opposition’s National Accord bloc.
The reprisals follow the attempt by a pro-opposition crowd to overrun the parliament and the offices of the Central Election Commission during the night of September 25-26. That attempt, in turn, was triggered by the CEC’s and the parliamentary leadership’s rejection of the opposition bloc’s demands for a recount of the votes in certain electoral districts, where massive electoral fraud was reported to have been perpetrated. The crowd was also inflamed by a false report that Manukian had been arrested inside the building. The attack, repulsed by security forces, capped three consecutive days of pro-opposition mass demonstrations that involved more than 100,00 participants each day. Yesterday the security forces cordoned off central Yerevan with armored vehicles and troops to prevent further demonstrations. Ter-Petrosian also decreed a ban on public meetings, and the defense, internal affairs, and state security ministers–who are political supporters of Ter-Petrosian–made televised speeches warning against disorder. (Noyan-Tapan, AP, Reuter, NTV, September 26)
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