The turmoil began after Anna Mkrtchian, an outspoken deputy from the opposition Pativ Unem bloc, again launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
“The author of this state of lawlessness is Nikol the capitulator who has ruined Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh),” she charged on the parliament floor.
Mkrtchian was already reprimanded by speaker Alen Simonian last week for referring to Pashinian by his first name and branding him as a “capitulator” responsible for Armenia’s defeat in last year’s war with Azerbaijan
Simonian, who is a senior member of the ruling Civil Contract party, not only interrupted and banned Mkrtchian from speaking for the rest of the day but also ordered her to leave the chamber this time around.
“Or else, security workers will force you out,” he told the 26-year-old lawmaker. The latter obeyed the order.
Ishkhan Saghatelian, a deputy speaker of the parliament representing the opposition Hayastan bloc, defended Mkrtchian, saying that her statements were a “political evaluation, not a personal insult.”
“Mr. Simonian, I understand that you got clear instructions from your boss to make sure that phrases like ‘capitulator’ and ‘land giver’ are not uttered in the National Assembly and this was probably one of the conditions for electing you chairman of the National Assembly,” said Saghatelian.
Simonian hit back before other pro-government deputies raged at the opposition leader, triggering a shouting match with their colleagues representing Hayastan, the second largest parliamentary force. With the two sides nearly coming to blows, Simonian ordered uniformed officers of an Armenian state security agency to enter the parliament floor and separate them. The session was interrupted as a result.
Simonian also ordered a halt to live televised and online broadcasts of the session. Moments later security personnel entered the press gallery overlooking the chamber and ordered journalists present there to stop filming or taking pictures of the dramatic proceedings.
Some of the journalists protested against the unprecedented order, arguing that the parliament’s statutes do not provide for such restrictions.
Tensions remained high on the parliament floor after the break. Hayk Konjorian, the leader of Civil Contract’s parliamentary group, took the floor to lambaste Saghatelian and other opposition leaders.
“Don’t you dare to think any thought expressed in this chamber will go unanswered,” said Konjorian.
Simonian sounded a more conciliatory note, urging the rival camps to “nullify” the earlier incident. “Let’s end this rhetoric once and for all,” he said, appealing to the opposition minority.
Artur Vanetsian, an erstwhile friend of Simonian’s leading Pativ Unem, countered that the speaker should first stop sanctioning opposition lawmakers voicing harsh criticism of Pashinian.
Pativ Unem and Hayastan on one side and the ruling party on the other have been trading serious recriminations since the current parliament began its work on August 2.