The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party decried the “political persecution” of one of its parliament deputies on Friday as she received more public insults from pro-government colleagues for accusing President Serzh Sarkisian of gambling.
The outspoken lawmaker, Zaruhi Postanjian, came under fire from senior members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) immediately after attacking Sarkisian during his visit to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Wednesday. Postanjian challenged him to comment on rumors that he has gambled away 70 million euros ($95 million) at a European casino. The president flatly denied that.
HHK lawmakers responded to Postanjian’s embarrassing question with personal insults. Some of them branded her a “Turk,” saying that her allegations amounted to high treason.
Galust Sahakian, a deputy chariman of the HHK leading its parliamentary faction, on Friday stood by his view that Sarkisian should have sworn at Postanjian in response to that question. He also said that the verbal abuse directed at the female parliamentarian is less grave than what she said in Strasbourg. “It’s one thing to offend the identity of a whole nation and it’s another [less important] thing say that she went to bed with a Turk,” Sahakian told reporters.
Sahakian thus seemed to rationalize an allegation made on Thursday by another member of the HHK faction in the National Assembly, Arakel Movsisian. “She went to bed with a Turk,” said Movsisian.
News reports said that members of the ruling party’s youth wing are planning to jeer Postanjian and pelt her with eggs and tomatoes on her return to Yerevan on Saturday. Sahakian implied that he would welcome that. “They would do that on their own, and not through [Western] grants,” he said.
However, Sarkisian made clear through a spokesman that he believes his young loyalists should not stage such a protest. “We call on everyone to refrain from such an initiative,” the presidential press secretary, Arman Saghatelian, said, according to Tert.am.
Postanjian, for her part, sounded undaunted by the prospect of being confronted by furious HHK members at Yerevan airport. “I am not afraid of anything,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) from Strasbourg. “Let them meet me. I’m ready for that.”
Meanwhile, Zharangutyun condemned what it called a smear campaign against its prominent member waged by the authorities. “Instead of teaching lessons of diplomacy, government representatives must be grateful for the fact that somebody is reminding them of the need to be accountable to the public,” the party spokesman, Hovsepian Khurshudian, said in a statement. He said the slurs addressed to Postanjian are only deepening citizens’ “suspicions” about gambling habits of the country’s leaders.
Khurshudian also deplored parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian’s plans to remove Postanjian from the Armenian delegation at the PACE because of her “slanderous” question. Postanjian said she has already informed the PACE leadership about those plans and been assured by it that Abrahamian cannot unilaterally strip her of her PACE seat.