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Vice-Speaker Of Armenian Parliament In Hot Water Over Soros Comment


Deputy Parliament Speaker Alen Simonian speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Yerevan, April 13, 2019.

Alen Simonian, a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, has dismissed accusations of breaking ethical standards after making comments about George Soros viewed by an international grant-making institution founded by the business magnate as insulting.

In the wake of Simonian’s comments made in a recent interview with the local Hraparak newspaper, Open Society Foundations-Armenia (OSF-Armenia), more commonly known as the Soros Foundation, has called for the establishment of an ethics committee in the Armenian parliament to look into whether the deputy speaker has been in breach of ethics rules “in terms of both language and content.”

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) Simonian, who represents the pro-government My Step faction in the National Assembly, suggested that if Mr. Soros feels offended, he should take him to court rather than make such a statement through his office.

In his interview with Hraparak Simonian was asked about why My Step is often accused of having ties with the Soros Foundation. In reply Simonian called George Soros a “half-dead old man” and added: “Who the hell are Soros, his father or anyone else to have influence on the government in the Republic of Armenia? Only a citizen of the Republic of Armenia has influence on Armenia.”

“I have the impression that some of our opponents, so to speak, have the impression that any office can really have influence. This is a false impression. And that this opinion is false will be shown at every opportunity,” Simonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

OSF-Armenia Executive Director Larisa Minasian countered by saying that she is concerned that a representative of the majority in the legitimate parliament of Armenia speaks with such a vocabulary and expresses such a position on an organization that has supported Armenia’s democratization since 1997.

Larisa Minasian, executive director of Open Society Foundations-Armenia, speaks at a news conference in Yerevan, January 29, 2020.
Larisa Minasian, executive director of Open Society Foundations-Armenia, speaks at a news conference in Yerevan, January 29, 2020.


“The vice-speaker brings the quality of public discourse, which is already low, down to unprecedented lows,” Minasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Minasian said that in the last year and a half various forces that have lost power and corruption opportunities have been waging an unprecedented smear campaign against the Open Society Foundations. She added that she believes that this campaign is actually aimed against My Step.

“Through their own TV channels they are trying to convince the public that the revolution was in fact carried out by outside forces, thus trying to reduce the level of public trust in the government,” the OSF-Armenia executive director said. “The target, after all, is the government, and we see that the force that lost power will do and is doing everything to return to power, and their goal is to erode that trust.”

Asked whether she thought that Simonian’s statements are grist to the mill of the former government, Minasian said that she believes it is up to the ethics committee to look into that.

Simonian, meanwhile, countered that Minasian cannot decide on what matter an ethics committee should hold hearings. “We are responsible only to the citizens of the Republic of Armenia. They will decide what to discuss and what political agenda to have. One has to put up with this idea. Let them write this in all caps on the walls of all their offices,” the deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament underscored.

The Armenian National Assembly is currently in recess and will return to work in September. In the meantime, Minasian expressed her surprise at how her letter addressed to Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan and leader of the My Step faction Lilit Makunts appeared in the media. In this view the OSF-Armenia executive director expressed her concern about a possible data breach.

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