Ishkhan Saghatelyan

Opposition Leader Elected Deputy Speaker Of Armenian Parliament

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — After a daylong stalemate, the Armenian parliament voted on Friday, August 6, to appoint a leading member of the main opposition Hayastan bloc, Ishkhan Saghatelyan, as one of its three deputy speakers.

Armenia’s constitution reserves the position for a representative of the 107-seat parliament’s opposition minority.

Saghatelyan was nominated for it by Hayastan and backed by the Pativ Unem (I Have Honor) bloc, the other opposition force represented in the recently elected National Assembly.

The outspoken opposition leader on Thursday twice failed to get at least 54 votes needed for his election in secret ballots held during a heated parliament debate on his candidacy. The parliament’s pro-government speaker, Alen Simonyan, spoke of a “parliamentary crisis” after the second vote.

Opposition lawmakers accused the parliamentary majority representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party of torpedoing Saghatelyan’s appointment.

“If somebody from the ruling faction thinks that by constantly not electing me they can force us to haggle or strike any deals I must say that this is not going to happen,” Saghatelyan said on Thursday.

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Majority leaders blamed the opposition blocs, which control 36 seats between them, for the outcome of the first two votes.

Saghatelyan was elected on a third attempt by 64 votes to 37. He pointedly thanked Armenians who voted for Hayastan, rather than pro-government parliamentarians, for his election.

“You gave us a mandate and we are obliged to fully represent you in the National Assembly,” he said, adding that he will continue “not to come to terms with the existing situation” in Armenia.

Saghatelyan, 39, is a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) party, a key component of the opposition alliance headed by former President Robert Kocharyan. He was the coordinator of a coalition of more than a dozen opposition groups that staged street protests following Armenia’s defeat in the autumn war with Azerbaijan in a bid to topple Pashinyan.

The parliament’s two other deputy speakers, Ruben Rubinyan and Hakob Arshakyan, are senior members of Civil Contract. They were elected earlier this week in votes boycotted by opposition lawmakers.

Armenian law also entitles opposition lawmakers to heading three of the parliament’s standing committees.

Simonyan complained on Thursday that the opposition factions are refusing to discuss with the pro-government majority the distribution of the 12 posts of committee chairperson. Saghatelyan made clear that there will no such talks as long as two deputies affiliated with Hayastan remain under arrest on what the opposition calls trumped-up charges.

The opposition blocs officially proposed on Friday the parliament set up a new committee tasked with dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Pativ Unem leader Artur Vanetzyan said that would send Azerbaijan and the international community a message that Armenia “has not forgotten about Artsakh (Karabakh) and the people living there.”

Civil Contract’s parliamentary group objected to the proposal.

 

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