Deputies representing the opposition Bright Armenia Party (LHK) continued to boycott on Tuesday sessions of the parliament in protest against the violent conduct of their pro-government colleagues which they say is encouraged by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
They walked out of the National Assembly last Friday following a brawl involving LHK leader Edmon Marukian and several deputies from Pashinian’s My Step bloc. One of those lawmakers, Sasun Mikaelian, punched Marukian while the latter spoke on the parliament in the presence of Pashinian and government ministers.
Pashinian deplored the violence but effectively blamed it on the LHK. Marukian’s party charged in response that he thereby “justified, legitimized and encouraged” violence against his political opponents. It also demanded the resignation of Mikaelian and two other My Step deputies who also hit Marukian during the fight.
The ruling bloc responded by saying that they will resign from the parliament only if Marukian and two other LHK deputies quit too.
Marukian shrugged off the proposal in a video address livestreamed on Facebook overnight. He claimed that Pashinian wants to get rid of his “last opponents” in the parliament.
“Why should we hand our mandates?” said Marukian. “Who did we punch? Sasun Mikaelian must definitely give up his mandate because he has nothing to do with politics.”
“We are victims of violence whereas you are its perpetrators and initiators,” he added, appealing to the ruling bloc.
“They are not victims, they are a party to the conflict,” countered Lilit Makunts, the bloc’s parliamentary leader.
“I am calling on my esteemed colleague to return to the political field and to put the work of the National Assembly back on a substantive track,” she told reporters.
Makunts also said that My Step has “drawn our conclusions” from the ugly incident and expects the same from the opposition party.
None of the 17 deputies representing the LHK showed up for Tuesday’s session of the 132-member parliament. The boycott led speaker Ararat Mirzoyan to postpone a planned debate on two LHK bills by two months.