Parliament Speaker Threatens to Expel Opposition Lawmakers from Legislature

By Asbarez | Wednesday, 18 May 2022

YEREVAN (—The leadership of Armenia’s parliament has threatened to strip its opposition members boycotting sessions of the National Assembly and leading ongoing anti-government protests in Yerevan of their seats.

The 35 lawmakers representing the opposition Hayastan and Pativ Unem alliances began the boycott last month in advance of the daily demonstrations demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’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 Tuesday that he is considering initiating such an appeal to the court.

“There is a law which I believe must be enforced,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “We will hold a discussion and make sense [of the situation.]”

Simonyan said the parliament majority representing the ruling Civil Contract will discuss the matter after the ongoing spring session of the 107-member assembly ends on June 17. Thirteen of the opposition lawmakers can be formally accused of absenteeism at this point, added the pro-government speaker.

Ishkhan Saghatelyan, a senior opposition parliamentarian and the main speaker at the opposition rallies launched on May 1, dismissed Simonian’s threats.

“Let them start [such proceedings,]” said Saghatelyan. “This is so secondary, so tertiary for us. They don’t understand and control the situation.”

Saghatelyan and other opposition parliamentarians continued to lead on Wednesday groups of opposition supporters blocking roads and staging sit-ins at street intersections across Yerevan in a bid to step up the pressure on Pashinyan’s government.

Riot police arrested more than 350 protesters in the morning. Police officers also tried to detain one of the lawmakers, Artsvik Minasyan, but let him ago after realizing that he is a member of the parliament. They tore Minasyan’s shirt in the scuffle.