BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The bullying tactics by leading figures of Armenia’s oligarch-infested ruling Republican Party of Armenia unfortunately have become commonplace in Armenia’s socio-political reality. But, remarks Tuesday in parliament by the leader of the ruling party’s coalition, which were reminiscent of Soviet-era tactics, takes the cake for how far the governing forces will go to stifle dissenting forces, even in the country’s legislature.
Reacting to comments made by opposition lawmakers regarding the President Serzh Sarkisian’s abhorrent human rights record, the Republican Party of Armenia’s parliamentary faction leader Vahram Baghdassarian accused his fellow lawmakers of perpetuating Turkish and Azerbaijani propaganda from the dais, saying they were being under the influence of petrodollars, from Baku.
On Monday Zaruhi Postanjian of the opposition Heritage Party took the podium to discuss human rights violations rampant under the Serzh Sarkisian administration. While she was addressing parliament, the ruling party controlling the session opted to shut off her microphone in an effort to stifle her speech.
During Tuesday’s session, Baghdassarian went a step further to brand his colleague a traitor.
“Yesterday, we witnessed classic example of high treason,” said Baghdassarian. “The National Assembly’s dais was used to spread Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s disinformation. False information was made public here ahead of a meeting between the president of our country and the president of an unfriendly country.”
“It is clear to me that quite a lot of money has been flowing here from the West and some of our colleagues have been carrying out orders and supporting their families from that,” added Baghdassarian.
“But yesterday I smelled Aliyev’s petrodollars here. The sources of funding seem to have changed and they are funded from other places,” said Baghadassarian referring to Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev’s practice paying legislators in other countries to advance Baku’s policies.
Postanjian’s protests to Parliament Speaker Galust Sahakian to curtail such comments went unanswered and Baghdassarian proceeded to call all opposition forces “uneducated, immoral and unintelligent provocateurs.”
The latter comment is the most ironic, since the Republican Party of Armenia is not a bastion of educated individuals that are guided by intelligence or a moral compass. If that were the case then Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian would not have reappointed Surik Khachatryan—known as Liska—as the governor of Syunik last month after his role in a shooting incident that claimed the life of Goris’ mayoral candidate and wounded two other people, one of them an Army colonel.
And then there is another ruling party member Ruben Hayrapetyan, who is known as Nemetz Rubo, under whose watch an Army doctor, Vahe Avetian, was beaten to death by thugs guised as restaurant workers. And the list of “educated, moral and intelligent” people who populate the Republican Party goes on.
Of course, this is not the first time that the ruling party has resorted to chord-cutting and other tactics to stifle opposition viewpoints from being heard. It is, however, the first time that a member of Armenia’s National Assembly is being dubbed a traitor accomplishing the deeds of a country, with which Armenia, for all intents and purposes, is at war.
It is too much to expect for the leaders and members of Republican Party of Armenia to exercise civility in their every-day dealings, as you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. However, what people should demand from their legislators is to exercise decorum when running the country.
Baghdassarian’s remarks Tuesday and Sahakian’s culpability in allowing such statements in Parliament reek of Aliyev’s underhanded tactics in governing his own country. It seems the group doing the bidding for Aliyev is the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and not those with dissenting viewpoints.