Samvel Nikoyan, a senior member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), was overwhelmingly elected as one of the two deputy speakers of the National Assembly on Monday
The position was until recently held by Hrayr Karapetian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). Karapetian stepped down late last month in line with the nationalist party’s decision to leave Armenia’s governing coalition in protest against President Serzh Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy towards Turkey.
Sarkisian, the HHK and the two other parties remaining in the coalition last week filled three ministerial posts left vacant by Dashnaktsutyun. The newly appointed minister of science, Armen Ashotian, previously headed the Armenian parliament’s committee on science, education and youth affairs. Ashotian was replaced on Monday by another HHK member, Artak Davtian.
Nikoyan made clear that he will continue to chair an ad hoc parliament commission investigating the March 2008 post-election violence in Yerevan in his new capacity. “I think I can combine the two posts,” he told fellow lawmakers. He indicated that the commission has essentially accomplished its mission and is awaiting the findings of another, bipartisan body conducting an inquiry into the unrest.
The Fact-Finding Group of Experts, in which the government camp and the Armenian opposition are equally represented, is supposed to submit information collected by it to Nikoyan’s commission. The group resumed its work on Monday after a controversial two-week break.
Three of its five members chosen by the ruling coalition and Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman went on vacation on May 4, shortly after the group’s first confidential report challenging the official version of events was leaked to the opposition press. Armenia’s two main opposition forces condemned the move, saying that the authorities are trying to prevent further embarrassing revelations.