YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—The ruling Civil Contract party moved on Tuesday to dismiss a deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament and the chairman of one of its standing committees affiliated with the main opposition Hayastan alliance.
Hayastan’s Ishkhan Saghatelyan holds one of the three posts of vice-speaker reserved for the opposition. The other opposition lawmaker, Vahe Hakobyan, chairs the parliament committee on economic affairs.
A representative of Civil Contract’s parliamentary group, which controls the majority of seats in the National Assembly, said it has decided to strip them of their posts because of their continuing boycott of parliament sessions.
Saghatelyan, Hakobyan and the 33 other deputies representing Hayastan and the other parliamentary opposition force, Pativ Unem, began the boycott in April in advance of their daily demonstrations demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation.
Under Armenian law, a lawmaker can lose their seat if they skip, for “non-legitimate” reasons, at least half of parliament votes during a single semi-annual session of the National Assembly. The final decision to that effect is to be made by the Constitutional Court at the initiative of the parliament’s leadership or at least one-fifth of the deputies.
Parliament speaker Alen Simonyan said on May 17 that he is considering initiating such an appeal to the court. According to the parliament’s press office, over a dozen opposition lawmakers could be formally accused of absenteeism at that point.
Simonian told reporters on Tuesday morning that he and other pro-government lawmakers will discuss the issue at a meeting later in the day.
After the meeting, the ruling party announced no decision to strip any opposition parliamentarians of their seats. It said instead that Saghatelyan and Hakobyan will only lose their posts.
Speaking shortly before that announcement, Saghatelyan again dismissed the government threats to terminate his and his colleagues’ membership of the National Assembly.
“We are out to fight against that gang,” he told News.am. “For us, the [parliamentary] mandate is only a tool for struggle. If the authorities want to strip us of our mandates let them do that. That will not affect our struggle in any way.”
Saghatelyan announced earlier in the day that the opposition forces will hold their next antigovernment rally on Friday.