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Armenian government U-turns on expelling opposition MPs

15 July 2022
Opposition MPs were not present during Thursday’s session of parliament.

The ruling Civil Contract Party has backed down from a decision to begin stripping all but three opposition MPs of their seats over their ‘unjustified absences’ from parliament.

Ruben Rubinyan, the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament from the Civil Contract faction explained on Thursday evening that they instead wanted to convince opposition MPs to return to parliament. 

‘They should come to the National Assembly with their heads hung in shame’, Rubinyan said. 

A parliamentary session to discuss the opposition’s absence which was originally set for Monday has been postponed until next week, after opposition MPs did not show up.

MPs from the Armenia Alliance and I Have Honour blocs have been boycotting parliament since early May demanding the government resign. They were absent again from an extraordinary session held on Thursday.

Asked what the government would do if the opposition continued to refuse to attend, Rubinyan said they would consider again applying to the Constitutional Court to have the MPs stripped of their positions. 

The ruling Civil Contract party had previously sought to strip 33 of 36 opposition MPs of their seats. 

The only exceptions were Taguhi Tovmasyan, from I have Honour bloc, who has continued to attend parliament, as well as Ishkhan Zakaryan, who left I Have Honour in December 2021 to sit as an independent. Martun Grigoryan who replaces outgoing MP Artur Vanetyan, was also not on the list since he entered Parliament only in early July. 

The Speaker of the Parliament, Alen Simonyan, described his submitting a draft law to the Constitutional Court to strip them of their seats a ‘very pleasant experience’.

Stalled opposition protests 

On 1 July, Civil Contract successfully removed the Armenia Alliance’s Ishkhan Saghatelyan as Deputy Speaker of Parliament, with the two remaining deputy speaker posts now being held by the ruling party.

Saghatelyan, a senior member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, was appointed following the 2021 snap elections after the ruling party blacked his appointment more than a dozen times.

Saghatelyan has in recent months been one of the most prominent organisers of the Resistance Movement, set up in an attempt to oust Pashinyan from power.

The opposition has accused Pashinyan’s government of making concessions on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh during peace negotiations, and has also actively opposed the normalisation of relations with Turkey.

After almost two months of protests in Armenia, including a continuous occupation of France Square in central Yerevan, in mid-June, the movement ended their street protests after failing to gain a critical mass of public support. 

This was despite repeated pledges not to leave the streets while Pashinyan remained in power. Opposition MPs, while maintaining their boycott, have stated that they may use their mandates at ‘any moment’. 

However, several MPs from the Armenia Alliance, as well as the leader of the Homeland Party and a member of the I Have Honour Alliance Artur Vanetsyan resigned shortly after the end of the protests.

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