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No Need for Freedom Fighters Here: Parliament Under Fire for Macho Brawls 

Parliamentary session on May 8 went with brawls to which people on social media reacted with criticism all the way to demanding that MP of “My Step” Sasoun Mikayelyan who initiated the brawl put down his mandate.

Sasoun Mikayelyan of “My Step”, known to the public as a fighter in the Karabakh war and the current head of “Yerkrapah Union” (Union of Land-Keepers) of Karabakh war veterans lost his temper and started interrupting oppositional Edmon Marukyan from Bright Armenia Party during his speech, calling him “dude” (hopar) to which Marukyan responded that he was no “dude” to Mr. Mikayelyan. Marukyan was actually reacting to the previous speech by “My Step’s” Babken Tunyan who had himself made indirect derogatory statements. This was followed with Mikayelyan threatening “to smash” Edmon Marukyan, who at that moment came forward to him to see how he would smash him, and Mikayelyan indeed punched him in the face, after which a brawl broke out with participants from “My Step” and “Bright Armenia” fractions. The brawl was stopped with the Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan and Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan and many others intervening.

All of this was happening in front of the Cabinet sitting at the Parliament and reporting on its 2019 performance.

“My Step” fraction MPs, including its head Liilit Makunts came forward to characterize the situation as a provocation on the part of Marukyan. Prime Minister Pashinyan condemned the violence and all sorts of violence in general, however effectively labeled Marukyan’s actions as a provocation. He deplored that the scene at the Parliament was a defeat for him personally and all of “My Step” that they gave way to the provocation. He said that the Robert-Serj clan was verbally and psychologically abusing the government and parliament by threatening with violence, and that violence and its provocation are equally deplorable.

Much criticism popped up in social media and press. Daniel Ionnisyan of “Union of Informed Citizens” reminded that May 8 was celebrated as the “Day of Land-Keepers”, the union head of which punched Marukyan, head of parliamentary opposition.

This story reminded me of the old days when being a “land-keeper” was an indulgence for all sorts of acts.

Journalist Tatul Hakobyan called for disarming the union of veterans, “otherwise they will shoot inside the parliament. We have the Armenian Army, we don’t need freedom-fighters (fidayees).”

“Yes, gentlemen, you are blemishing the respublika [in reference to a film quote], but more so are doing those attacking from the back, Vahe Ghalumyan and Artak Manukyan [of My Step], more than Sasoun Mikayelyan himself.”

Vardine Grigoryan of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor vexed, “The criminal culture enjoys immunity at the Parliament, and you want to eradicate it outside or in the army?”  

Human rights defender Zara Hovhannisyan labelled it as a “macho showdown” that came to prove that a revolution of values has not taken place in the country. “Both in the past and in the present parliament we can witness MPs threatening oppositional colleagues to “throw the bottle at them” or “cut the neck” and it is notable that “My Step” colleagues literally remove the water bottle from his hands, because they were sure that Mikayelyan would indeed implement his threat.”  She continued on her Facebook page that this was a proliferation of the false discourse of a “strong man” that persists through the past and remains as something promoted and encouraged by the political elites eliminating efforts towards building a society without violence.

Sociocultural anthropologist Hrag Papazian, in his criticism, also reminded of deputy Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan who was engaged in a verbal insult days ago with the same MP Marukyan at the Parliament and a day later, punched a well-known “anti-revolutionary pundit” on the street “giving way to swearwords that insulted his honor.” “Deprive Sasoun, Edmon, belatedly Alen and all obvious abusers of the mandate,” writes Hrag.

Journalist Kristine Khanumyan questioned whether there was any objective reason for somebody to fall into such emotions and resort to fists. She concluded that there was no such a reason, and that Pashinyan has lost control over his own team and that allegedly team members of the ruling fraction are “pressed the remote control button” to build such a brawl.