President Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have designated Galust Sahakian, a veteran HHK figure, as the new speaker of the country’s parliament.
The HHK’s governing body unanimously approved Sahakian’s candidacy at a weekend meeting chaired by Sarkisian. With the ruling party controlling the majority of seats in the National Assembly, he will almost certainly be elected speaker in the coming days.
The position, which is nominally second highest in the Armenian state hierarchy, became vacant after its previous HHK-affiliated holder, Hovik Abrahamian, was appointed prime minister earlier this month.
Explaining his choice to the HHK leadership, Sarkisian cited Sahakian’s long-running affiliation with the party and extensive legislative experience. “I am confident that Galust Sahakian can be chairman of the National Assembly and benefit the National Assembly, our country and the party,” he said at the meeting.
Sahakian, 66, is one of the longest-serving members of the assembly, having held a seat there since 1995. He has headed the HHK’s parliamentary faction for almost a decade. His two sons hold senior positions in the government.
“I always try to see good things in people,” he told fellow lawmakers on the parliament floor on Monday. “There are no bad people, there are only bad relationships.”
Levon Zurabian, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), challenged Sahakian to comment on persistent media reports that he has long engaged in entrepreneurial activity in violation of the constitution. Sahakian again denied owning any businesses.
Zurabian made clear that he and other HAK deputies will boycott the election of the new speaker because they do not consider the government-controlled parliament legitimate.
Deputies from another opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), will also not take part in the secret ballot, even though their leader, Armen Rustamian, praised Sahakian’s personal traits. Rustamian described the speaker-in-waiting as an occasional consensus builder who has not shied away from working together with his opposition colleagues.
The Prosperous Armenia Party, which controls the second largest faction in the current parliament, has yet to decide whether to back Sahakian’s candidacy.