Lawmakers from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Thursday refused to retract their offensive statements about an opposition colleague who sought to embarrass President Serzh Sarkisian at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) earlier this month.
Galust Sahakian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader, and two members of his faction stood by the insults that were aimed at Zaruhi Postanjian of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party after she controversially accused Sarkisian of gambling. They also scoffed at Postanjian’s appeal to parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian to ensure her personal safety.
One of the pro-government deputies in question, Karen Avagian, was unrepentant about his earlier remark that Postanjian was “more of a Turk than any Turk, more of an Azerbaijani than any Azerbaijani” when she confronted the Armenian president on the PACE floor in Strasbourg. “What should I regret?” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I made evaluations and I haven’t heard that Zaruhi Postanjian was offended by them.”
Avagian insisted that he did not violate any ethical norms. “Who decides which words are appropriate which ones not?” said the former head of the ruling party’s youth wing.
Another HHK lawmaker, Arakel Movsisian, charged that Postanjian “had gone to bed with a Turk” in his first reaction to her verbal attack on Sarkisian. Movsisian, who is better known to the public as “Shmays,” made more offensive comments about the 41-year-old mother of four when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Thursday.
Sahakian, the parliament majority leader, justified such verbal abuse, saying that it is much less grave than Postanjian’s effective allegation that Sarkisian recently gambled away $95 million in a European casino. Sahakian reaffirmed his stance on Thursday.
In a letter to speaker Abrahamian sent on Wednesday, Postanjian demanded that the three men as well as another HHK deputy, Mher Sedrakian, be banned from approaching her inside Armenia’s National Assembly. The opposition parliamentarian was already provided with armed police guards earlier this week after complaining to the Armenian police about another senior HHK figure, Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Khachik Asrian. The latter declared that she deserves to be “burned alive.”
“Zaruhi Postanjian should be afraid of the HHK’s principles, rather than fists,” Sahakian said, commenting on her appeal. “How do you imagine Galust Sahakian throwing punches at Zaruhi Postanjian? Zaruhi would become a hero, while Galust Sahakian would be discredited.” He accused her of exploiting the HHK uproar for political purposes.
“There is a medical term for that: persecution complex,” Avagian said for his part.
Davit Harutiunian, the head of the Armenian delegation at the PACE, has so far been the only senior lawmaker to publicly criticize fellow HHK deputies for their insults. Harutiunian said on Thursday that his “political evaluation” of their conduct is “extremely negative.” Still, he would not be drawn on whether the matter should be referred to an ethics committee of the Armenian parliament.