Tovmasian was forcibly removed, together with several other opposition deputies, from the parliament’s main auditorium on Thursday after occupying its rostrum in protest against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s latest statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. She condemned the use of force, ordered by speaker Alen Simonian, as illegal.
Hovik Aghazarian, a controversial Civil Contract deputy, announced shortly after the incident that he is collecting signatures in support of stripping Tovmasian of her post. At least 28 other pro-government parliamentarians signed the initiative by Friday afternoon.
The ruling party’s parliamentary group is expected meet in the coming days to decide whether to oust Tovmasian.
The official rationale for the proposed dismissal is not Thursday’s incident but the April 4 meeting of the parliament committee on human rights which discussed two candidates for the then vacant post of Armenia’s human rights defender.
The meeting chaired by Tovmasian was marred by verbal abuse and threats shouted by some Civil Contract deputies at the candidate nominated by the Armenian opposition. One of those deputies publicly pledged to “cut the tongues and ears of anyone” who would make disparaging comments about the 2018 “velvet revolution” that brought Pashinian to power.
Despite a resulting uproar, law-enforcement authorities declined to investigate the threats. Nor did Pashinian’s party take any disciplinary action against its lawmakers involved in the ugly scenes.
The party is now considering instead ousting Tovmasian, who is affiliated with the opposition Pativ Unem bloc. Aghazarian blamed her for the chaotic committee meeting, saying that she should have interrupted it.
Tovmasian countered that she did so after the unusually aggressive behavior of Aghazarian’s pro-government colleagues. “There are no grounds for discussing my dismissal,” she said, accusing the authorities of putting “political pressure” on her.
Tovmasian, who is a former journalist and newspaper editor, is the last remaining oppositionist holding a leadership position in the National Assembly.
One of the parliament’s three deputy speakers, Ishkhan Saghatelian, and the chairman of the parliament committee on economic affairs, Vahe Hovsepian, were ousted last July after weeks of anti-government protests organized by their Hayastan alliance and Pativ Unem. Another Hayastan deputy, Armen Gevorgian, immediately resigned as chairman of a committee dealing with “Eurasian integration” in protest. Tovmasian pointedly declined to follow suit.