An outspoken opposition lawmaker was named to lead the small parliamentary faction of Raffi Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun (Heritage) party on Tuesday after weeks of harsh criticism and verbal abuse from President Serzh Sarkisian’s political allies.
Zaruhi Postanjian took over the 4-member faction in the 131-seat National Assembly following the unexpected resignation of its previous leader, Ruben Hakobian.
Hakobian refused to give any reasons for his “very personal decision” that took other senior Zharangutyun leaders by surprise. He denied any connection between the move and a controversial question that was asked Postanjian during President Serzh Sarkisian’s recent appearance at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE).
Postanjian challenged Sarkisian to comment on rumors that he recently gambled away more than $90 million in a European casino. This sparked a barrage of condemnations and offensive comments by senior representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Some opposition politicians, among them Hakobian, also disapproved of the embarrassing question. Still, the Zharangutyun leadership defended the embattled deputy and decried her “political persecution” by the Armenian authorities.
“I decided to resign long before Zaruhi Postanjian’s question,” Hakobian told reporters. Asked about the reason for his decision, he said, “No comment.”
Postanjian also denied that the resignation is somehow connected to her controversial behavior in Strasbourg. She insisted that she maintains a “very warm” rapport with Hakobian. “I respect and love him very much,” she said.