The Armenian National Assembly on Wednesday turned down an opposition-drafted resolution describing the current situation in the country as a “government crisis” and calling for measures to deal with it.
Sixty-seven members of the 131-seat legislature dominated by representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) voted against the bill, with only 16 deputies supporting it. Six lawmakers abstained from voting.
The debate and vote on the resolution drafted jointly by the opposition Armenian National Congress and its two allies, Heritage and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), still last fall took place in the absence of the latter. The BHK faction that has more than three dozen members said on Monday it would boycott the four-day session to protest the government crackdown on their leader, embattled tycoon Gagik Tsarukian.
On February 12, President Serzh Sarkisian, who also heads the HHK, lashed out at Tsarukian, describing him as “evil” and saying that he should not be allowed in politics. In the following days a number of Tsarukian loyalists were detained on suspicion of illegally possessing weapons in cases that the police said had nothing to do with their party affiliation. But the BHK said the detentions were an attempt to impose political pressure on announced plans for a joint opposition protest on February 20 to demand Sarkisian’s resignation. The party called off the rally after Tsarukian issued a statement two days prior to the gathering, saying that he was ready to settle all disputes through “peaceful, lawful, and political means”.
The BHK’s absence in the parliament was construed differently by the government and opposition parties. During the debate on the opposition bill Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, a senior member of the HHK, implied that among other things the BHK walkout meant that the Tsarukian party did not want to take part in the debate and the vote on the resolution.
Hermine Naghdalian, the other deputy speaker of parliament representing the HHK, also attacked the opposition, saying that if there was any crisis in Armenia it was within the opposition itself.
“The opposition is lame in both feet,” Naghdalian charged. “I don’t share the optimism that the opposition can overcome this ailment quickly, because it started to limp not recently, but a long time ago.”
Earlier, HAK parliamentary leader Levon Zurabian warned the government against further pressure on the BHK, saying that “even if the opposition is lame today, it will quickly recover from its foot injury.”