Armenian law entitles opposition members to heading three of the 12 parliament committees. It stipulates that the deputy chairpersons of several other parliamentary panels should also represent the opposition minority in the National Assembly.
The main opposition Hayastan alliance nominated this summer one of its deputies, Artur Ghazinian, as deputy head of the parliament committee on defense and security. He was also backed by the Pativ Unem bloc, the second parliamentary opposition force.
Seven members of the 11-member committee representing Civil Contract first blocked Ghazinian’s appointment on August 31. Hayastan responded by re-nominating him for the vacant post for five more times.
On each of those occasions, the pro-government deputies voted against Ghazinian after attacking him during tense committee meetings. Some of them cited Ghazinian’s harsh criticism of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s handling of last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Ghazinian has continued to hold Pashinian responsible for Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war that left at least 3,800 Armenian soldiers dead. Hayastan and Pativ Unem have made clear that they will continue to back his candidacy.
Vahagn Aleksanian, a Civil Contract deputy, said on Friday that the pro-government majority has started drafting amendments to the parliament’s statutes which would not allow parliamentary groups to nominate the same lawmaker for a vacant post for more than two times.
Pativ Unem’s Tigran Abrahamian denounced the initiative. “It’s not the authorities’ whims that must determine who will be our candidate for the position,” he told journalists.
Aleksanian said there are “many reasons” why Ghazinian’s appointment is unacceptable to Pashinian’s party. In particular, he said, Ghazinian did not serve in the Armenian army and lacks “elementary” knowledge of military issues.
Aleksanian downplayed the fact that Pashinian too did not serve in the armed forces.
Under the Armenian constitution, the prime minister becomes the army’s commander-in-chief in times of war.