President Levon Ter-Petrosian announced on national television last night that he is resigning his office. According to the constitution, the Chairman of Parliament — currently Babken Ararktsian — is next in line to fill the vacant post of president. The Prime Minister — currently Robert Kocharian — shall step in if the parliament chairman is unable to do so. The constitution requires that a presidential election be held within forty days of an incumbent’s resignation.
Ter-Petrosian told the country that "the known bodies of power [i.e. the Defense Ministry and the Interior and Security Ministry] have demanded my resignation;" and that he "complied in order to avoid further destabilization of the situation." Ter-Petrosian warned that the country may be entering a dangerous period, but "the alternative [a decision by him to stay on] would have been more dangerous to the state." The president’s resignation is the outcome — though not yet necessarily the climax — of his differences with large segments of the government and body politic over how to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Ter-Petrosian advocated acceptance of the OSCE’s compromise proposals, which his rivals rejected.
As anticipated in the Monitor (most recently in the February 3 issue), a political bandwagon effect has developed in favor of the president’s opponents. Prime Minister Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and Interior and Security Minister Serge Sarkisian openly defied the president and were able to trigger a stampede in both government and parliament away from both Ter-Petrosian and the leader of the ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, Vano Siradeghian. Yesterday saw the resignations of several more ministers and other officials, including the National Bank chairman. Eight out of eleven provincial governors also left the APNM yesterday. Significantly, Kocharian and the Sarkisians prevailed without having to make public statements against the president or in defense of their own case. They organized the pressure against Ter-Petrosian by working quietly behind the scenes. It was left to opposition parties — both Communists and Nationalists — to clamor for the president’s resignation. Those parties wield no power, however, and their campaign hardly made a difference to the outcome.
The big political winner that has emerged from this crisis is the Yerkrapah [Volunteer] movement and its parliamentary group of Karabakh hard-liners. As of yesterday, almost fifty deputies from APNM and its allies in the governing Republic bloc defected to Yerkrapah. As of this writing, Yerkrapah has grown to seventy-two members while Republic has shrunk to fifty-four members in the 189-seat parliament. The realignment is bound to continue in the days ahead. (Noyan-Tapan, Azg, Snark, February 3)
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