By Ruzanna Khachatrian and Ruzanna Stepanian
The National Assembly elected a senior representative of the pro-presidential Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) as its new deputy speaker on Monday.
The BHK controls the post in accordance with a power-sharing deal it cut with Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) following last May’s parliamentary elections. Its previous holder, Ishkhan Zakarian, was elected by the parliament as the new head of Armenia’s Audit Chamber, a body overseeing use of public financed by various government bodies, earlier this month.
Zakarian’s replacement, Arevik Petrosian, until now headed the parliament committee on human rights and had previously served as deputy minister of justice. Petrosian, 35, will be the first female vice-speaker of independent Armenia’s parliament.
Her main challenger in the election, Anahit Bakhshian of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, was also a woman. Only 13 of the 131 members of the government-controlled legislature voted for Bakhshian, compared with 79 votes cast for the BHK nominee.
In a separate development, the BHK ruled out any political motives for last Thursday’s killing of one of the leaders of its branch in Yerevan’s Kanaker district. Sayad Davtian, chairman of the Armenian Union of Hunters, was shot dead in broad daylight outside an agricultural market in the neighboring Arabkir district. Police said on Monday that they are investigating the killing but have not identified any suspects so far.
“As long as the investigation is underway we won’t suggest any theories of the crime,” BHK spokesman Baghdasar Mherian told RFE/RL. “Having said that, we can already rule out the possibility of political motives.”
“The Prosperous Armenia Party has no enemies,” he said. “We cooperate with a broad range of political parties.”
The BHK is officially led by Gagik Tsarukian, a tycoon close to President Robert Kocharian, and boasts the second largest faction in the parliament.