YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The parliamentary leader of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) sparked a bitter verbal exchange with outspoken opposition lawmakers on Tuesday after accusing them of accepting money from the West and Azerbaijan to betray Armenia.
“We witnessed yesterday a classical example of high treason,” charged Vahram Baghdasarian. “The Armenian parliament’s rostrum was used for spreading Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s disinformation. False information was made public here ahead of a meeting between the president of our country and the president of an unfriendly country (Azerbaijan).”
“It is clear to me that quite a lot of money has been flowing here from the West and some of our colleagues have been carrying out orders and thus supporting their families,” he said on the parliament floor. “But yesterday I smelled [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev’s petrodollars here. The sources of funding seem to have changed and they are funded from other places.”
Baghdasarian clearly alluded to harsh criticism of Armenia’s current leadership that was voiced on Monday by Zaruhi Postanjian of the opposition Zharangutyun party and Nikol Pashinian, another outspoken deputy leading a different opposition group. Both Postanjian and Pashinian reacted furiously to the allegations, demanding that parliament speaker Galust Sahakian stop Baghdasarian’s speech. “I it is your speech that reeks of petrodollars,” shouted Pashinian.
“Look at yourself in the mirror and ask what you have done for this country?” shot back Baghdasarian, whose faction the controls the majority of parliament seats. He labelled the oppositionists as “uneducated, immoral and unintelligent provocateurs.”
The unusually bitter recriminations were traded during two-day debates on an annual report by Armenia’s state human rights ombudsman, Karen Andreasian, submitted to the National Assembly.
In a speech which she called a “guilty verdict,” Postanjian delivered a damning indictment of the Sarkisian administration’s human rights record and broader results of the president’s 6-year rule. “Serzh Sarkisian is the leader of your clique, not the president of Armenia. He has no right to be called president of Armenia,” the former trial attorney told Sahakian after he interrupted her speech on the grounds that she is using offensive language against the head of state.
Pashinian, for his part, accused the authorities of continuing to cover up the March 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan, which left 10 people dead and more than 100 others injured. Nobody has been prosecuted in connection with those deaths.