Zaruhi Postanjian of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party has represented Armenia in the Strasbourg-based body along with three other parliamentarians affiliated with the ruling Republican and Prosperous Armenia parties as well as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
Parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian decided last week to replace Postanjian by a pro-government deputy on the grounds that Dashnaktsutyun left the country’s governing coalition in April and is now in opposition to President Serzh Sarkisian. Abrahamian argued that the presence of two opposition deputies in the delegation does not reflect the balance of forces in the National Assembly.
Postanjian dismissed the explanation, saying that the authorities are simply keen to prevent more criticism of their policies in Strasbourg. She also claimed that Dashnaktsutyun mainly disagrees with the Sarkisian administration’s foreign policy and is therefore not a genuine opposition force. She argued that the nationalist party continues to defend the authorities’ 2008 post-election crackdown on Armenia’s main opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.
Dashnaktsutyun, which holds more opposition seats than Zharangutyun, rejected the claims and found Postanjian’s exclusion from the delegation legitimate. The row has called into question continued cooperation between the two parties.
Postanjian told RFE/RL on Wednesday that she has received a letter from Abrahamian formally notifying her about the change in the delegation’s composition. She said the speaker failed to clearly explain the move in violation of the Armenian parliament statutes. Postanjian, who is also a well-known trial attorney, said she will lodge a complaint to the PACE leadership.
Abrahamian’s spokesman, Nairi Petrosian, insisted on the legality of the decision. “A PACE delegation must reflect the correlation of forces,” Petrosian said. “There must definitely be an opposition representative. That is a requirement of the PACE’s statutes. So if the correlation changes in parliament it has the right to change the delegation’s composition accordingly.”