Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian on Wednesday removed an opposition deputy from the Armenian delegation at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) for embarrassing President Serzh Sarkisian in the Strasbourg-based body earlier this month.
The outspoken lawmaker, Zaruhi Postanjian of the Zharangutyun party, was replaced by a representative of the pro-government Orinats Yerkir Party.
Postanjian condemned the punitive measure as an illegal suppression of dissent and said she will complain to the PACE leadership. “Hard times await you,” she told Abrahamian. “You will not be forgiven your actions.”
“We are so scared,” Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), commented mockingly.
Abrahamian announced his intention to strip Postanjian of her PACE seat immediately after she confronted Sarkisian during his address to the assembly. She challenged the president to respond to allegations that he recently gambled away more than $90 million in a European casino. Sarkisian scoffed at the embarrassing question before a barrage of condemnations and insults that were aimed at Postanjian by senior HHK figures.
Postanjian also condemned senior deputies from other opposition parties represented in the National Assembly for not objecting to her ouster. She claimed that they even welcomed it at a meeting chaired by Abrahamian earlier in the day. “Individuals who claim to be in opposition are in fact supporting the government,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), singling out Levon Zurabian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK).
Zurabian insisted that he did not back his opposition colleague’s removal from the PACE. But he stopped short of criticizing Abrahamian’s move. “We all know that the [last Armenian] elections were rigged and I think that it makes no sense to talk about a fair formation of parliament delegations after that,” he said.
Armen Rustamian of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation also avoided any criticism of Abrahamian’s move, saying only that he regrets Postanjian’s ouster. He said the speaker has the right to decide the composition of Armenian parliamentary delegations.
Naira Zohrabian, another member of the PACE representing the ostensibly neutral Prosperous Armenia Party, defended the speaker’s actions in more explicit terms. She said they did not violate the PACE statutes.