Dozens of deputies representing four opposition parties walked out of the Armenian parliament on Monday after failing to force an emergency debate on last week’s spate of attacks on opposition activists.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK), Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Zharangutyun parties threatened to boycott further parliament sessions in protest against what they see as government-orchestrated violence aimed at bullying their supporters. Orinats Yerkir, another opposition party represented in the National Assembly, joined in the walkout staged after speaker Galust Sahakian refused to suspend debates on issues included on the regular parliament agenda and discuss the beatings of the five oppositionists, among them HAK deputy Aram Manukian.
“It was a slap in the face of all 131 members of the National Assembly,” Orinats Yerkir’s Heghine Bisharian said of the attack on Manukian. “We therefore believe that we should halt the proceedings, call an emergency session and discuss what happened.”
Sahakian argued that such an interruption would run counter to the parliament statutes. He suggested that lawmakers, including members of the pro-government majority, adopt instead a statement strongly condemning the violence and urging law-enforcement to identify and punish its perpetrators. The proposal was essentially backed by deputies from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the fifth opposition force holding parliament seats. They did not join the boycott.
The four other opposition factions rejected it before demonstratively leaving the chamber. Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK lawmaker, said later in the day that they will start collecting 44 signatures needed for a debate demanded by them.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), hinted that the HHK will block such a debate. “They needed an excuse to boycott the session,” he said of the opposition minority. “They had no business in parliament anymore.”