Two more parliament deputies have defected from the parliamentary faction of Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), putting it on the verge of losing its majority in the National Assembly.
One of them, Arman Sahakian, gave no clear reason for his move when he announced it on Facebook over the weekend. 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.
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.
The other lawmaker, Felix Tsolakian, announced his exit from the HHK faction on Monday. He said his affiliation with it “effectively ended” after he twice broke ranks to vote for Nikol Pashinian’s becoming Armenia’s prime minister in early May. In a Facebook post, he said he will now be acting as an independent deputy.
The HHK leadership reprimanded Tsolakian for voting for Pashinian but stopped short of expelling him from the party ranks last week.
Tsolakian, 66, was a career KGB officer in Soviet times and a deputy director of Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) from 2007-2013. He headed the national tax service from 2003-2007. Tsolakian governed the northwestern Shirak province when he was elected to the parliament from a local constituency in 2017.
At least two other deputies quit the HHK’s parliamentary faction last week. One of them, Artur Gevorgian, is a son-in-law of Vladimir Gasparian, the former chief of the Armenian police. Pashinian fired Gasparian two days after taking office on May 8 following mass protests that forced Serzh Sarkisian to resign as premier.
After the latest defections the HHK technically controls 54 of the 105 parliament seats. Some Armenian newspapers reported in recent days that several other wealthy parliamentarians are also poised to defect to from its parliamentary 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.