The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Monday effectively approved the controversial ouster from the Strasbourg-based body of an outspoken Armenian opposition lawmaker.
The PACE unanimously accepted the credentials of the Armenian parliamentary delegation to the assembly at the start of its winter session. “I welcome our new colleagues,” said a European parliamentarian presiding over the session.
Armenian parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian removed Zaruhi Postanjian of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) from the delegation and replaced her by a pro-government deputy shortly after she embarrassed President Serzh Sarkisian during his appearance at the PACE in October. Postanjian, who is affiliated with the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, challenged Sarkisian to respond to allegations that he gambled away more than $90 million in a European casino. The president scoffed at the question that triggered a barrage of condemnations and insults from government loyalists in Yerevan.
Postanjian and Zharangutyun denounced her ouster as “political persecution” and pledged to challenge it in Strasbourg. Postanjian expressed confidence earlier this month that the assembly will demand that she be reinstated as PACE member. She said that the European People’s Party (EPP), a coalition of Europe’s leading conservative parties comprising Zharangutyun, will stand up for her.
However, none of the PACE members representing the EPP challenged the Armenian delegation’s mandate on Monday. “The issue is definitely closed,” Naira Zohrabian, a member of the delegation, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) from Strasbourg.
Zohrabian and other delegation members representing Armenian opposition parties other than Zharangutyun, have tacitly backed Postanjian’s ouster. They believe that her question to Sarkisian was inappropriate.
Armen Martirosian, Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, deplored the PACE’s stance. “This is the very Council of Europe which recognized two rigged Armenian elections,” he said. “So I’m not surprised with what happened.”
Martirosian also laid the blame on the EPP leadership, saying that it has continued to support the Sarkisian government even after the latter’s decision to ditch a planned Association Agreement with the European Union.