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Armenian Opposition Leaders Stripped Of Parliament Posts


Armenian - Pro-government deputies attend a session of parliament boycotted by their opposition colleagues, Yerevan, July 1, 2022.

Armenia’s parliament controlled by the ruling Civil Contract party voted on Friday to dismiss one of its deputy speakers and the chairman of its economic committee affiliated with the main opposition Hayastan bloc.

The bloc condemned the decision and said it will give up other leadership positions in the National Assembly in protest.

Speaking before the vote, Civil Contract lawmakers again said that deputy speaker Ishkhan Saghatelian and the committee chairman, Vahe Hakobian, must be dismissed because of boycotting sessions of the parliament and its standing committees.

Civil Contract’s Arusyak Julhakian also accused Saghatelian of “provoking clashes” and “using hate speech” during antigovernment rallies launched by the Armenian opposition on May 1.

Saghatelian, Hakobian and the 33 other deputies representing Hayastan and the other parliamentary opposition force, Pativ Unem, began the boycott ahead of the daily rallies aimed toppling Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. They have said that they have no plans yet to return to the parliament.

Armenia - Riot police block a street leading to the parliament building in Yerevan, July 1, 2022.
Armenia - Riot police block a street leading to the parliament building in Yerevan, July 1, 2022.

In a joint statement, Hayastan and Pativ Unem condemned Saghatelian’s and Hakobian’s dismissal and portrayed it as another sign of a “deepening political crisis” in Armenia.

“With this behavior the current authorities once again demonstrated that they are concerned solely with posts, engaged in persecutions, devoid of any ability to confront challenges facing the country, lack legitimacy and do not represent Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh),” said the statement. “In these circumstances, their exit is inevitable.”

Parliament speaker Alen Simonian said ahead of the vote that the pro-government majority in the National Assembly is open to considering other opposition candidates for the two posts.

“We will not nominate any candidates,” Saghatelian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service shortly after his ouster. “Moreover, our colleagues will likely give up the other administrative posts occupied by the opposition [in the parliament.]”

Armenia - Former President Robert Kocharian (center), Ishkhan Saghatelian (right) and Vahe Hakobian at a campaign rally, June 18, 2021.
Armenia - Former President Robert Kocharian (center), Ishkhan Saghatelian (right) and Vahe Hakobian at a campaign rally, June 18, 2021.

Armen Gevorgian, a Hayastan lawmaker heading the parliament committee on “regional and Eurasian integration,” was quick to tender his resignation. He said he cannot go against “clear rules of political, public and human ethics.”

Pativ Unem’s Hayk Mamijanian similarly resigned as deputy chairman of the parliament committee on foreign relations.

Civil Contract has not yet carried out its threats to strip all opposition lawmakers of their parliament seats for absenteeism. Senior representatives of the ruling party led by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian say it has not yet made a final decision on that.

Saghatelian again scoffed at those threats. He said the opposition deputies themselves may decide to leave the parliament.

Hayastan and Pativ Unem decided to scale back the protests earlier this month after failing to unseat Pashinian. But they pledged to continue to fight for his removal from power. Their next rally was scheduled for Friday evening.

The two opposition forces accuse Pashinian of planning to make sweeping concessions to Azerbaijan that would place Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijani control and jeopardize the very existence of Armenia.

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