The two opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Friday of trying to intimidate and muzzle them for their growing criticism of his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The Bright Armenia (LHK) and Prosperous Armenia (BHK) parties as well as other, more outspoken opposition groups hold the authorities responsible for 15,281 coronavirus cases and at least 258 deaths recorded in the country of about 3 million. BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian demanded last week the resignation of Pashinian and his entire cabinet.
Pashinian rejected the criticism on Wednesday, predicting the “political death” of opposition groups. He specifically lambasted the BHK and the LHK the following day, saying that they may have contributed to the rapid speed of the coronavirus in Armenia. He pledged to investigate their “subversive activities.”
Lawmakers representing the two parties, which control 43 of the 132 parliament seats between them, strongly condemned Pashinian’s statements.
“The events of the past week make me wonder if there is a dictatorial regime in our country and we don’t know that,” said the BHK’s Shake Isayan.
“When the authorities, the prime minister said that we are in a [coronavirus-related] hellish situation what did they expect from the largest parliamentary opposition faction?” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“There is no other country in the world where the government is holding the opposition responsible [for the coronavirus outbreak,]” said the LHK’s Ani Samsonian.
“They too realize that they have made many mistakes and that people have started to understand that,” said Samsonian. “And their sole objective now is to silence all critics.”
Alen Simonian, a deputy parliament speaker and senior member of the ruling My Step bloc, dismissed these claims and accused the opposition of trying to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis. “They will get a very bad answer from both the public and the elected, legitimate government of Armenia,” he said.