YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—The two opposition groups represented in Armenia’s new parliament said on Tuesday that they will ask the Constitutional Court to declare illegal the continuing detention of two opposition lawmakers.
They also pledged to challenge the legality of the election of the parliament’s speaker affiliated with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party.
The speaker, Alen Simonyan, was elected on Monday in a vote boycotted by the opposition Hayastan and Pativ Unem blocs.
The blocs nominated the jailed lawmakers, Mkhitar Zakaryan and Artur Sargsyan, for the post in a show of solidarity with them. The other deputies representing them walked out of the parliament floor and boycotted the ensuing secret ballot in protest against the Armenian authorities’ refusal to let Zakaryan and Sargsyan attend the inaugural session of the National Assembly.
The opposition minority claimed that the vote was illegal because neither man was able to address fellow deputies and answer questions from them.
“They cannot hold the election without the participation of the two other candidates and consider it normal, fair and competitive,” said Armen Rustamyan, a senior Hayastan figure.
The opposition will therefore ask the Constitutional Court to declare Simonian’s election null and void, Rustamyan told reporters.
Vladimir Vartanyan, a senior lawmaker from Civil Contract, dismissed the opposition claims. “All nominated candidates were on the ballot and those who nominated [the arrested opposition figures] did not come to vote for them,” he said.
Zakaryan and Sargsyan were arrested on separate corruption charges shortly after the June 20 parliamentary elections won by Pashinyan’s party. They reject the accusations as politically motivated.
Up until their arrests the two men ran major communities in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province and openly challenged Pashinyan’s administration. Two other elected Syunik mayors affiliated with Hayastan were also arrested in the wake of the snap elections.
The parliamentary opposition says that Zakaryan and Sargsyan are held in detention in violation of the Armenian constitution which stipulates that “a deputy may not be deprived of liberty without the consent of the National Assembly.”
Prosecutors and leaders of the parliament’s pro-government majority maintain, however, that they do not enjoy immunity from prosecution because they were indicted before formally becoming parliament deputies.
Rustamyan said the opposition minority will ask the Constitutional Court to reject the “ludicrous” explanation given by the authorities. “We will demand an answer to this simple question from the court,” he said.
Rustamyan again insisted that the arrested opposition members are political prisoners.