Deputies brawl on parliament floor

RA National Assembly, August 25

Wednesday’s parliamentary session was interrupted twice after security guards were summoned to settle brawls between pro-government and opposition deputies. 

The first fight broke out after Civil Contract Party deputy Hayk Sargsyan accused previous defense ministers of accepting bribes to exempt people from military service during a speech addressing the National Assembly, calling them traitors. Incensed by the accusation, former defense minister and Armenia Alliance deputy Seyran Ohanyan threw a water bottle at Sargsyan, inciting a scuffle. Deputies rushed to the center of the room to wrestle while tossing water bottles at each other. The melee ended after National Assembly speaker Alen Simonyan ordered security guards to enter the chamber and separate the two sides.

The sitting was interrupted one hour later after pro-government deputies shouted down Armenia Alliance parliamentarian Vahe Hakobyan during his speech. After he descended from the podium to confront Civil Contract Party deputy Vahagn Aleksanyan, Aleksanyan kicked him, provoking deputies to rush to their aid and instigating a group fracas. 

Wednesday’s scuffles were not without precedent. A brawl erupted between pro-government and opposition lawmakers after Simonyan ordered security guards to remove I Have Honor deputy Anna Mkrtchyan from the parliamentary chamber on Tuesday. 

During a question-and-answer session with PM Nikol Pashinyan following his presentation of his five-year government action plan, Mkrtchyan criticized the PM for entering the chamber surrounded by bodyguards. Simonyan interrupted Mkrtchyan, reprimanding her for insulting the PM and forbidding her from speaking throughout the rest of the session. When Pashinyan asserted that his colleagues had reacted “softly” and with restraint to Mkrtchyan, he was met with shouts from the chamber, and Simonyan ordered Mkrtchyan’s removal. 

Journalists also became the targets of violence on Wednesday as security guards rushed into the press room to physically remove them from the building and prevent them from filming the altercation. News.am camera operator Hayk Tonoyan was threatened with the withdrawal of his accreditation if he continued filming the proceedings; footage of the fight was forcibly deleted from his camera.

RA National Assembly, August 25

A coalition of 11 media organizations released a statement after Wednesday’s sitting demanding an end to the illegal restrictions on journalistic activity and harassment of journalists in the National Assembly. “We insist that these actions carried out against accredited journalists in the National Assembly are nothing more than violations of freedom of speech and the right of the public to be informed,” the statement reads. 

Journalists have been facing mounting restrictions on their coverage of National Assembly proceedings since the new parliament convened on August 2nd. On August 3, Simonyan announced that journalists would no longer be permitted to enter the parliamentary chamber without special permission or to photograph security guards. 

On August 11, the alliance of media associations released a statement demanding greater transparency from the National Assembly after the routine livestream of the parliamentary sitting was suspended during another brawl. “Citizens of Armenia have the right and must be informed of what is taking place inside parliament and what behavior is displayed by each deputy, regardless of whether it will be evaluated positively or negatively,” the statement read.

RA National Assembly, August 25
Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.

12 Comments

  1. Please know that news.am is owned and controlled, as are most press outlets in Armenia, by one individual, a close member of the former president’s family. The purpose of these news outlets has been to create more divisions and disseminate fake news that have proven detrimental to Armenia’s national stability and security. While transparency is key to forge a legitimate democratic government, as long as staff members of the “free”press behave unprofessionally and aim to foment discord and unrest among the populace, the current restrictions imposed by Simonyan are well deserved and justified.

    • So, an embarrassing brawl did not happen, because the new agency is supposedly owned by a former official? Did you ever complain that all former opposition news agencies (including the one run by Nikol) were being financed by Western sources such as the NED (i.e. CIA) the British Council (i.e. MI6) and Open Society (i.e. George Soros). “Free press” is sought when Western powers have not been able to subvert a government, and after they subvert a government “free press” is no longer needed?

    • We all know who has been, and continues to be, the most detrimental to Armenia’s national stability and security. Your crude “these news outlets” propaganda fools nobody. Did you copy it from Reddit Armenia? There, a clique of Pashinyan supporting moderators tag any news from outlets not Pashinyan-controlled with a “warning” message implying everything reported by those outlets is a lie; even 100% neutral reports by the long standing and credible rfe/rl are tagged thus.

    • So Nelly, an embarrassing brawl did not happen, because the said new agency is supposedly owned by a former official? By the way, did you ever complain that all opposition news agencies during previous administrations (including the one run by Nikol) were being financed by Western sources such as the NED (i.e. CIA) the British Council (i.e. MI6) and Open Society (i.e. George Soros)? Apparently, “free press” is sought when Western powers have not been able to subvert a government. And after they subvert a government, “free press” is all of a sudden a problem?

  2. Every time you’re tempted to put equal responsibility on both sides, you have to remind yourself who holds the power, who controls the the police and security forces under direct line of command, who has absolute majority in parliament, and question whether there are checks and balances in place. You have to remind yourself to hold those in power accountable. That’s the civic responsibility of every one of us.

  3. We have Azeri troops taking our lands piece by piece, chasing away villagers, blocking our highways, and these people who are in the parliament supposed to run our country are fighting each other. If you want to know where the problem is coming from , find out who is providing the funding for each parliament member’s salary from there you would know the root of the problem. World powers are to be blamed as well, as they also funding the division by providing funding to different parties. So I am still pro-Pashinyan because obviously anyone from previous administrations were corrupt to the core, I was so embarrassed to see our soldiers fighting with 20 year old guns, and jets that do not have any missiles in it. But unfortunately Mr. Pashinyan is to optimistic to believe that democracy will work with this parliament and put the country into a more stable position. This is my advise to Mr. Pashinyan , you won fairly, the whole world knows it, all the people in Armenian know it, implement autocratic policies to clean the house, before its too late and move forward. and If you have not significantly improved your military by now its time to step down, but if you really love our motherland do not step down until you get rid of all corrupt politicians . The only solution then would be a good patriotic dictator that is upright and not even $10 billion dollar or more to his account can not buy him. Once you implement autocracy get a righteous judge and in only 2 months find out who are all the traitors, once verdict is reached exile them. I am a devout Christian and I can tell you you can find many verses in the bible that would tell you , that it just thing to do. By the way what ever happened to the trial for killing all those patriots in the parliament.

  4. The Republic of Armenia’s last prime ministerial election , June 20th of this year, was NOT about Pashinyan v/s Kocharyan, it was about saving our Republic from traitor Nikol from handing it over to the Turks. It so happened, Mr. Kocharyan, kept our Republic safe and sound. These Pashinyan supporters are truly disconnected from reality, any sane person with half a brain knows the difference between a traitor and a patriot.

    • This the patriot which knocked Artsakh out of the negotiating process?

      Kocharyan keeping the Republic safe and sound by offering to push Armenia into a more integrated part of the failed state that is Russia?

    • Andy Faulkner refers to Russia when it is not even the topic of discussion here.
      It truly amazes me how morbidly obsessed Russophobes are with Russia. 24/7 talk about a country you call a “failed state.”
      Funny enough, that so-called failed state keeps the USA and the UK on their toes. So much for being “weak.”

  5. What’s relevant is that your top man, Nikol’s, direct involvement and backdoor activities and deals with the Turks, caused the loss of 75 percent of Artsakh, which was part of our homeland,Armenia. Now, the Azeris are knocking on Armenia’s door demanding more land. Mr. Kocharyan, was a war veteran and unlike, Traitor Nikol, he was a true patriot and kept our homeland safe and sound during his tenure.

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