Tensions between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s alliance and Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) rose on Thursday as their senior representatives traded fresh accusations in the parliament.
Vahagn Hovakimian, a senior pro-government lawmaker, hit back at BHK claims that many of his younger colleagues from the My Step alliance are incompetent. He noted that Tsarukian delivered his first-ever speech on the parliament floor in January, nearly 16 years after being first elected to the National Assembly.
“They need to remember that the leader of their parliamentary group, having been a deputy for 16 years, spoke from this rostrum for the first time ever in January this year,” said Hovakimian, who is thought to be close to Pashinian.
BHK parliamentarians reacted angrily to that statement, triggering a shouting match with Hovakimian and other members of the parliament’s pro-government majority.
“How dare you bad-mouth that person?” said the BHK’s Sergey Bagratian. “’First-ever speech,’ ‘second-ever speech’ … There are so many things you haven’t done for the first time in your life.”
“You must not say anything about the leader of our faction anymore,” added Bagratian.
Tsarukian also slammed Hovakimian when he spoke to reporters afterwards. “What have you done in your life to be able to utter Tsarukian’s name?” he said, appealing to the former journalist who had long worked for Pashinian’s “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily. “You haven’t done a tiny bit of what Tsarukian has done.”
The tycoon, whose opposition party is the second largest parliamentary force, used the row to reiterate his criticism of the current government’s economic policies. He said that the government has yet to bring about economic betterment which was promised by Pashinian during and after last year’s “velvet revolution” backed by the BHK.
Tsarukian charged early this month that many government officials are incompetent. This was followed by bitter recriminations traded by My Step and the BHK over a transgender activist’s bombshell speech delivered in the Armenian parliament.
On April 9 Pashinian accused a senior BHK lawmaker of organizing a “political provocation” against the parliament majority loyal to him. Tsarukian and his associated rejected the accusation.
Tax officials raided some of the businesses belonging to Tsarukian in the following days. BHK representatives said the tax audits may be politically motivated. The State Revenue Committee denied that.