Brawls and injured MP: Armenian parliament discusses government program
For the second day, the Armenian parliament is discussing the government’s new five-year program. The atmosphere is tense, verbal skirmishes and brawls often erupt between pro-government and opposition deputies. On the second day, both parties began to throw bottles and physically attack each other.
The presentation of the government’s program was also marked by the protest carried out by journalists accredited in the parliament. In the box they had reserved to cover the work of the National Assembly, media representatives stood up with the banners that read: “The press has never been as unfree as it is in the time of Nikol”.
On the first day, the parliamentary security officers only prevented journalists from showing their posters or sticking them to the glass separating them from the conference room but the next day security services kicked the journalists out of the box using brute force.
The opposition hardly discussed the program itself, assessing it as a “false document obscuring reality”, written “at the level of term paper”.
However, the discussion and adoption of the program will continue on August 26. The opposition has no doubts that it will be adopted, since the ruling party has enough mandates for this.
Details of incidents and the most important points of the program.
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The first day. How it all started
On the first day, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan personally presented the government program for three hours. Then a heated discussion began. The atmosphere in the hall was so tense that the speaker of the parliament Alen Simonyan ordered the guards to remove Anna Mkrtchyan, a member of the opposition I Have Honor bloc, from the hall.
It all started when instead of asking a question, she began to list the mistakes of the prime minister, and in the end, she also noted that even Nikol Pashinyan feels the need to come to parliament with a large number of guards.
This remark angered the deputies of Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party; in the squabble, Anna Mkrtchyan called them supporters of the “capitulator”. This is not the first time she referred to the prime minister this way because in the fall of 2020 he signed a trilateral statement on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh. The opposition considers this document extremely unfavorable for the Armenian side and blames Pashinyan for this.
After that, the speaker first ordered the oppositionist’s microphone to be turned off, and after another skirmish, he called on the guards to escort Anna Mkrtchyan out of the conference room.
To protect her, the deputies of the opposition blocs “Hayastan” (Armenia) and “I have the honor” surrounded Mkrtchyan and did not allow the guards to approach her. The speaker announced a 20-minute break, during which there was a scuffle between the deputies and the security service.
For the first time in the history of Armenia, a woman deputy was taken out of the parliamentary session hall by force – with bodily injuries.
Later, a member of the “Hayastan” bloc Artsvik Minasyan said that during the scuffle, the guards hit him on the head and legs, and also tore his shirt.
Response to the incident
The prime minister supported the actions of the state security service during the scuffle in parliament and thanked them for fulfilling their “official duties”:
“I followed the actions of the State Security Service in the conference room. They should continue their work aimed at ensuring the normal functioning of the National Assembly, in accordance with the instructions of the Speaker of the Armenian Parliament”.
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman of Armenia called this incident “extremely alarming”.
“Parliament must guarantee the restoration of an atmosphere of solidarity in society, serve to strengthen human rights”, Arman Tatoyan wrote on Facebook.
He also commented on the fact that the Armenian parliament is guarded by people in military uniform. According to him, this creates the impression of a militarization of the National Assembly, while the parliament is the main guarantor of democracy in the country.
The Hayastan and I Have the Honor blocs also made a statement, condemning the violence against Anna Mkrtchyan:
“August 24 will become one of the most disgraceful pages in the history of parliament, when a group of people who illegally declared their power in the legislature, grossly violating the constitution and laws, committed a crime against democratic parliamentary values”.
Second day. Bottle throwing and brawls
It all started with a statement by the ruling party MP Hayk Sargsyan that who said that before the Velvet Revolution, evasion from the army service for money was actively practiced in Armenia, which, in turn, according to the deputy, broke the back of the Armed Forces.
Sargsyan stated that all defense ministers, under whom “they were freed from the mandatory service for money or by phone, are traitors to the motherland”.
After these words, the former Minister of Defense, a member of the Hayastan bloc Seyran Ohanyan threw a bottle at him and the parliamentary hall was overtaken by chaos. Bottles flew into the deputies from all sides.
Former Defense Minister stated that the representative of the ruling party, Hayk Sargsyan, provoked a scuffle in the parliament with his speech.
And then not a scuffle, but a real fight broke out. The head of the commission on economic issues, a member of the Hayastan bloc, Vahe Hakobyan, in his speech sharply criticized the authorities and called the government’s program a “course work”. During his speech, deputies of the ruling party threw remarks at him. Hakobyan answered and walked away from the rostrum in the direction of the chairs occupied by the deputies of the Civil Contract.
After a verbal skirmish, fists went into action. The Speaker of Parliament again announced a break.
Later it became known that the deputy from the Hayastan bloc Gegham Nazaryan was hospitalized in an ambulance. He suffered an eye injury.
Nikol Pashinyan’s speech
The prime minister spoke for two days in a row. Here are the most important points of his speech that are now actively being discussed in the media and society.
Nikol Pashinyan said that Yerevan is ready for constructive negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh and considers it important to resume the negotiation process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship.
The prime minister said that it is necessary to start the process of demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border as soon as possible:
“I am very sorry that due to political noise it was not possible to achieve the planned result in spring but the Armenian side is ready to start the process of demarcation now”.
Pashinyan spoke about unblocking communications in the region which are planned according to a trilateral statement he signed with the heads of Russia and Azerbaijan. He again stressed that the document “does not contain any expression, mention, wording” on the creation of a corridor through the territory of Armenia:
“Just as Armenia must get a road through Azerbaijan for transport links with Russia and Iran, so Azerbaijan must get a road through Armenia for its western regions, transport links with Nakhichevan”.
According to the prime minister, the Azerbaijani side makes destructive and provocative statements about the corridor, which may interfere with the work of the vice-prime ministers of the three countries. And the Armenian government believes that this process is “a serious opportunity to break the 30-year blockade of Armenia”.
The government’s program talks about the possibility of adopting a new constitution or constitutional amendments.
According to the prime minister, after the Karabakh war, many have come to the conclusion that the parliamentary system of government is not the best solution for the country “in such a security environment”. Perhaps Armenia will return to a presidential or semi-presidential system. But, as Pashinyan said, it will be necessary to “measure thrice and cut once”.
It is planned to reform the Armed Forces, revise the terms of compulsory military service and move towards creating a professional army.
Greater involvement of women in the structure is also planned. According to Pashinyan, this is due to the demographic indicators of the country – women make up the majority of the population ․
Journalists’ fight for their rights
On the first day of discussion of the government’s program, journalists accredited in parliament held a protest.
In the box, which was set aside for their work, they held in their hands posters with the words “Nikol Pashinyan, you are no longer a journalist”, “The press has never been more unfree than in Nikol’s time”.
The journalists said that with this action they are trying to attract the attention of Nikol Pashinyan, they demand a meeting with him, since they do not receive answers to their questions from other officials. The fact is that recently the authorities have initiated a number of legislative changes, which journalistic organizations consider to restrict freedom of speech.
In addition, from the very first day of the work of the new parliament, the right of journalists accredited in the National Assembly to move around the building was restricted.
And on August 25, parliamentary security officials used brute force to expel the journalists from the lodge, which was set aside for their work.
The video posted online shows how people in military uniforms rudely push journalists out of their room, as they refuse to leave it.