A parliamentary opposition leader has spoken of a ‘negative atmosphere’ surrounding his party following a harsh response from the head of state to criticism of electoral practices in Armenia.
Armen Martirosian, a senior member of the Heritage party’s faction in the Armenian parliament, described his recent spat with pro-establishment lawmakers as the latest proof of the government backlash in the wake of what the party views as scornful remarks against its founder Raffi Hovannisian.
Earlier this week, Martirosian had separate arguments with the acting speaker of parliament Samvel Nikoyan and another member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Arakel Movsisian, over speaking order and interruptions.
The Heritage MP was first challenged by Nikoyan over his turn to ask a question during a traditional Wednesday question-and-answer session with government officials. In the dispute the acting speaker suggested, in a rude manner, that Martirosian be more attentive to his calls and “clean his ears”.
Another argument ensued when Martirosian, speaking from the parliamentary rostrum, demanded calm in the chamber to proceed with his remarks addressed to the government. His words drew an angry reaction from the chamber dominated by pro-government lawmakers, with one of them representing the HHK calling the opposition member “cattle” and demanding that he “keep it short”.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Friday Martirosian said the attacks from pro-government counterparts fitted well into the general pattern of attitudes that emerged after President Serzh Sarkisian accused Hovannisian of “besmirching and damaging” the ongoing electoral reforms in the country.
Speaking to reporters last Saturday, Sarkisian made a harsh assessment of more than a dozen suggestions from Hovannisian on how to raise the standard of holding elections that the opposition party leader had earlier laid out in a formal letter addressed to the head of state. In particular, the Armenian president said the Heritage party leader’s letter was designed “to compromise the process which is already underway.”
The Heritage party responded by calling Sarkisian’s statement “a partisan and nationally unworthy incursion” against Hovannisian personally, the party, as well as Armenia’s entire opposition and public.
Meanwhile, HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov said on Friday the party did not discuss the behavior of its lawmakers and the parliament incidents in general at the previous night’s meeting of its executive body. Instead, the HHK decided to nominate current acting speaker Nikoyan as its candidate to stay in the post permanently until the end of the legislature’s term next May.
Sharmazanov, who himself was named as a candidate to fill the post of deputy speaker to be vacated by Nikoyan, called such incidents “unpleasant”, but emphasized that “not everything in life turns out to be pleasant.”
“I don’t think that was such a big issue to be discussed [at the party’s meeting]. A parliament is a political body where one speaks and the other replies,” the HHK spokesman told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am). "Look what takes place in European parliaments!”