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Samvel Nikoyan, a senior member of the governing Republican Party (HHK), was formally elected on Tuesday as the new speaker of Armenia’s parliament.

Nikoyan, who until now served as deputy speaker, received the backing of 102 of the 131 parliament deputies mainly representing the HHK and its two junior partners in the ruling coalition.

By contrast, his opposition challenger, Larisa Alaverdian of the Zharangutyun (Heritage), received only four votes. Alaverdian was not backed even by deputies from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the other opposition party represented in the National Assembly.

Nikoyan’s election became a forgone conclusion after the HHK’s governing body headed by President Serzh Sarkisian nominated him for the vacant post late last week.

The previous speaker, Hovik Abrahamian, resigned for still unclear reasons last month. Incidentally, Abrahamian also took part in the election of his successor.

The HHK leadership made sure that turnout for the parliament vote is high. Many HHK lawmakers who rarely attend parliament sessions showed up to cast their ballots for Nikoyan.

Nikoyan will head the National Assembly until the next parliamentary elections scheduled for May. Few expect him to be as influential as Abrahamian.

The Armenian National Congress (HAK), a larger opposition force not represented in the parliament, has condemned the choice of the new speaker. HAK representatives claim that Nikoyan was “rewarded” for heading an ad hoc parliamentary commission that justified the use of deadly force against opposition protesters in Yerevan in March 2008.

Nikoyan, 53, dismissed those claims as he spoke to journalists after the announcement of the vote results. He said he invested “a great deal of soul, energy, health and will” in the commission and is proud of its work.
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