ARF’s Ishkhanyan elected Artsakh parliament speaker

Davit Ishkhanyan

The Artsakh National Assembly has elected Davit Ishkhanyan, parliamentary deputy with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), as its new speaker in a secret ballot.

Ishkhanyan was elected in an extraordinary parliamentary session convened on August 7 to replace former parliamentary speaker Artur Tovmasyan. He was nominated by the “Free Motherland-United Civic Alliance” ruling coalition led by Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan. Former speaker Tovmasyan is a member of the Free Motherland party. Ishkhanyan was elected with 22 votes in favor and nine against. 

Regardless of his party affiliation, his political and state-centered career, experience and respect make him a  worthy candidate for the post of speaker of the National Assembly,” President Harutyunyan said. 

It later emerged that Ishkhanyan’s nomination was the result of a negotiation between the ARF and the current and two former presidents of Artsakh. President Harutyunyan and former presidents Arkadi Ghukasyan and Bako Sahakyan approached the ARF with the offer to nominate Ishkhanyan for the presidency of the National Assembly. The ARF agreed after lengthy discussions, on the condition that Ishkhanyan be free to leave the post in case of a disagreement with the ruling party, according to Armenian National Assembly deputy Gegham Manukyan.

“At this fateful, decisive moment, there is an opportunity to increase the role of the National Assembly, to change the political direction of Artsakh, about which the ARF has spoken many times,” said Manukyan.

Ishkhanyan’s nomination raised concerns among Artsakh politicians that it was the result of covert political deal-making. Marcel Petrosyan, the head of the “United Homeland” faction in the Artsakh National Assembly, said that his faction had not been informed about Ishkhanyan’s nomination prior to the vote. 

“That’s not how things are done. In fact, it turns out that they have brought the opposition to power in a roundabout way,” Petrosyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

“United Homeland” is the second largest faction in the Artsakh parliament. It was founded by Samvel Babayan, former Artsakh Defense Army commander during the first Artsakh War and former Artsakh Defense Minister from 1994-2000.

“You all know my personal attitude towards Davit Ishkhanyan, as a member of the ARF, a politician, a fighter, a parent and a good friend. He has all the virtues to lead the National Assembly,” Petrosyan said while addressing the National Assembly. “However, today we and our political force consider this vote a political decision. Making such a political decision in this situation is not only dangerous, but also fraught with unexpected outcomes.”

Metakse Hakobyan, parliament deputy with the “Justice” faction, welcomed Ishkhanyan’s election. Yet she also accused President Harutyunyan of nominating Ishkhanyan in an attempt to divide the opposition. The “Justice” faction is in a coalition with the ARF in the National Assembly.

“In the hopeless situation in which [Harutyunyan] has found himself and which he is no longer able to cope with, he also considers this as a lifeline, thinking that over time there will emerge a structure, a person who will be able to more confidently oppose the authorities in Armenia. This is a cunning move, because Arayik Harutyunyan has never done anything for the good of the state or based on the interests of the state,” Hakobyan said while addressing the National Assembly.

Ishkhanyan, who is also a member of the ARF Bureau, called for unity between the parliamentary factions, parties, church and state in his election remarks. “Our political stance should be aimed at building bridges and avoiding destructive manifestations,” he said. 

The change in parliamentary leadership comes as Artsakh faces a humanitarian crisis due to its ongoing blockade by Azerbaijan. Artsakh’s leadership has repeatedly beseeched Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan not to sacrifice Artsakh’s demand for self-determination and independence in ongoing negotiations with Azerbaijan. The ARF has been especially critical of PM Pashinyan and his declared readiness to recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan. 

“All of us took this step with deep awareness, understanding that the process of electing the leadership of the parliament is not taking place under normal conditions, but this decision is made in an emergency situation,” Ishkhanyan said upon his election. 

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She reports on international women's rights, South Caucasus politics, and diasporic identity. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Democracy in Exile, and Girls on Key Press. She holds master's degrees in journalism and Near Eastern studies from New York University.


  1. Congratulations to Lillian for being promoted to Assistant Editor 👏. Please don’t forget that Artsakh & Nagorno Karabagh as well as Nakhichevan are ‘de jure’ an inseparable part of Armenia 🇦🇲 according to International Law. See the Arbitral Award of the President of the United States of America 🇺🇸 Woodrow Wilson, Washington, November 22nd, 1920. According to the diplomat & former Ambassador to Canada, Mr Ara Papian, who has studied International & Inter State Relations for the past fifteen years, Arbitral Awards never go out of date. Nagorno Karabagh 🇦🇲 is ‘de jure’ part of Armenia 🇦🇲 & doesn’t need independence, only rejoining Armenia & International peacekeepers. Independence for Artsakh is neither viable nor guarantees security. Help the National Democratic Alliance (AJB) achieve the ideals of Dashnagtsutune, Azad Angakh Hayasdan, Wilsonian Hayasdan & the Treaty of Sevres.

    • Your “international law” is not even worth the paper it’s printed on. Your kind ruined Armenia.

  2. What or who would you prefer to rely on? Putin? Oligarchs? My kind? What kind is that exactly. Are you not being a little presumptuous?

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