YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—For the second day in a row security guards have been called into the Armenian parliament chamber as another brawl between pro-government and opposition lawmakers broke out during the presentation of the government’s five-year action plan on Wednesday.
Much of the 2021-2026 program that has been laid out in parliament by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan focuses on the new government’s vision of Armenia’s future in new geopolitical realities in the region created after last year’s defeat in the war against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Hayastan and Pativ Unem, the two opposition factions represented in the parliament, have been critical of Pashinyan and his political team, holding them responsible for the defeat and describing the government’s program as a pathway to a new “capitulation.”
Pashinyan and majority lawmakers have dismissed such accusations, claiming that it is Pashinyan’s predecessors, namely former presidents Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian, with whom the two opposition factions are associated, that are largely to blame for the defeat.
They argued that by letting them score a landslide victory in the June 20 snap parliament elections people vindicated Pashinyan and his political team, while passing a guilty verdict on the former governments.
In his speech Wednesday Hayk Sargsyan, a member of the ruling Civil Contract faction, in particular, criticized the former governments for their mishandling of the economy and army affairs that led to large-scale out-migration and a decrease in the country’s defense capabilities before the 2018 “velvet revolution.” He said that the new Pashinyan government did not have enough time to redress the situation.
In an apparent reference to opposition criticism that some members of the current government did not serve in the army, Sargsyan said that all former defense ministers during whose tenures people were exempted from military service by phone calls were “traitors.”
Sargsyan’s remarks sparked a quarrel in the chamber between pro-government and opposition lawmakers as the main opposition Hayastan faction is led by former defense minister Seyran Ohanian.
As lawmakers began to throw water bottles at each other, Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan interrupted the session and called in security guards to restore order in the chamber.
Several lawmakers, including Civil Contract member Hrachya Hakobyan, were removed from the chamber.
Hakobyan later told reporters that the brawl was provoked by Ohanyan, who threw a water bottle in the direction of Sargsian.
Ohanyan did not comment immediately on the accusation. He denied any fistfights inside the session hall where access to media has been restricted since early August. Ohanian said, however, that his glasses were broken in the jostle.
Another brawl in the parliament between pro-government and opposition members broke out shortly after the lawmakers resumed work. It began during the speech of opposition Hayastan faction member Vahe Hakobyan. It is seen on the video that parliament majority and minority deputies exchanged blows during a mass brawl that followed. Another break in the session was announced and security guards were called in. Several lawmakers were escorted out of the session hall.
The Prosecutor’s Office later said that the brawls in the Armenian parliament on Wednesday will become a matter for investigation.
On August 24, opposition lawmakers brawled with security guards after Parliament Speaker Simonian ordered that Pativ Unem faction member Anna Mkrtchyan be deprived of the floor and removed from the chamber for insulting Prime Minister Pashinyan.
The opposition yesterday accused Pashinyan of provoking the incident with his encouragement of the security guards’ actions. Pashinyan dismissed the accusation, saying that the security guards were doing their duty.