Zaruhi Postanjian, an outspoken Armenian opposition parliamentarian, will spend the next several months studying international relations at a renowned university in the United States, it emerged on Thursday.
Postanjian, who leads the small parliamentary faction of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, is among a group of Armenian professionals selected for a five-month course offered by the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
“I applied for the course by chance and was surprised to be selected. After I was selected everyone advised me to make that decision,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) before her departure to Massachusetts.
Postanjian insisted that she will not aspire to a more important role within Zharangutyun or the broader opposition camp after completing the course. “Education is not a sufficient condition for being a leader,” she said. “I don’t want to be a leader because we already have leaders capable of leading people. I can only be a rank-and-file soldier.”
Zharangutyun’s founder and top leader, Raffi Hovannisian, is a former U.S. citizen who moved to Armenia in 1990. Hovannisian served as the country’s first foreign minister in 1991-1992 and was President Serzh Sarkisian’s main challenger in last year’s disputed presidential election.
A former trial attorney, Postanjian was first elected to parliament on the Zharangutyun ticket in 2007. She became late last year the leader of the party’s parliamentary faction nominally comprising five deputies. It is not yet clear who will head it in her absence. Postanjian expressed confidence that her party will find a “temporary” solution.
The 41-year-old mother of four has been a vocal critic of the current and previous Armenian governments throughout her work in the National Assembly. She faced a furious reaction from pro-government deputies after controversially embarrassing Sarkisian at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) last October with a question about his alleged gambling habits. Some of those lawmakers used offensive language to denounce her. Postanjian was also ousted from the Armenian parliamentary delegation at the PACE as a result.
Postanjian sparked another controversy late last month when she collected electronic voting cards of two dozen deputies from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in an attempt to disrupt the parliamentary ratification of a controversial Russian-Armenian gas agreement. The move led the pro-government majority in the parliament to back the agreement by a show of hands. Opposition lawmakers say that this was done with serious procedural violations and that the ratification was therefore invalid.
Postanjian on Thursday urged the opposition minority to boycott the upcoming parliament sessions to try to prevent the National Assembly from making a quorum and thus precipitate its dissolution and the conduct of snap elections. “This could be the best option,” she said. “It may not seem feasible, but all the conditions are in place to generate such a situation. We may not have a majority now, but [the Armenian authorities] have trouble making their majority work.”