Alen Simonian, the parliament speaker and a senior Civil Contract figure, issued the warning as the Armenian parliament began its autumn session in the absence of its deputies representing the opposition Hayastan and Pativ Unem alliances.
The opposition lawmakers gathered, meanwhile, in another conference hall in Yerevan to underscore their boycott and pledge more efforts to topple Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. One of their leaders, Ishkhan Saghatelian, said the two alliances will hold more antigovernment rallies and try to reinvigorate their “resistance movement” because regime change remains their principal objective.
The 35 members of the 107-seat parliament representing Hayastan and Pativ Unem alliances began the boycott in April in advance of their daily demonstrations demanding Pashinian’s resignation. They failed to force him to step down before deciding in mid-June to scale back the protests sparked by Pashinian’s apparent readiness to make major concessions to Azerbaijan.
The opposition lawmakers continued the boycott through the summer despite government threats to strip them of their parliament seats. Their senior representatives made clear late last week that they still have no plans to return to the National Assembly. A Hayastan statement accused Pashinian’s party of routinely blocking parliament debates on pressing issues facing Armenia.
“We saw them off with applause and we are ready to welcome them back with applause,” Simonian told journalists. “They have no choice.”
“If you are in politics you must be in this chamber. If you are out of politics, then you are out of this chamber as well,” he said.
“If they don’t come back before the end of this year and their absences go beyond the permissible limit, I am confident that the Constitutional Court will make the right decision,” added the speaker.
Under Armenian law, a parliament deputy can lose their seat if they skip, for “non-legitimate” reasons, at least half of parliament votes during a single semi-annual session. The final decision to that effect is to be made by the country’s Constitutional Court at the request of the parliament’s leadership or at least one-fifth of the deputies.