Another parliament deputy defected from the parliamentary faction of Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) over the weekend, further reducing its majority in the National Assembly.
The wealthy lawmaker, Arman Sahakian, gave no clear reason for the move when he announced it on Facebook. He said only that he will now concentrate on problems facing his constituency encompassing the country’s second largest city, Gyumri, as well as Armenia’s broader economic development.
“I am ready to actively support all initiatives by both the current authorities and my opposition comrades aimed at development,” wrote Sahakian.
It was not immediately clear whether he will also formally terminate his membership in the HHK.
Sahakian, 40, is a businessman who has held a seat in the parliament since 2012. He reportedly owns companies importing alcohol, tobacco and foodstuffs to Armenia as well as one of the country’s leading football clubs based in Gyumri.
At least two other deputies quit the HHK’s parliamentary faction just a few days before Sahakian announced his decision. One of them, Artur Gevorgian, is the son-in-law of Vladimir Gasparian, the former chief of the Armenian police. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian fired Gasparian two days after taking office on May 8 following mass protests that forced Serzh Sarkisian to resign as premier.
After Sahakian’s exit, the HHK technically controls 55 of the 105 parliament seats. One of the remaining nominal members of its faction, Felix Tsolakian, twice broke ranks to vote for Pashinian’s premiership in early May.
The HHK leadership reprimanded Tsolakian but stopped short of expelling him from the party ranks as a result. His continued loyalty to the former ruling party now seems in serious doubt.
Some Armenian newspapers reported in recent days that several other wealthy parliamentarians are also poised to defect to from the HHK faction.
The faction leader, Vahram Baghdasarian, admitted last week that Sarkisian’s party now risks losing control over the parliament. He claimed at the same time that it is “not desperate to retain our majority.”
A loss of that majority would mean that the HHK can no longer block key government bills. It would also stop being in a position to thwart Pashinian’s plans to force fresh parliamentary elections later this year. Those plans are supported by the parliament’s three minority factions represented in Pashinian’s cabinet.