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The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party strongly condemned on Friday deputies from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) for voting in the place of their absent to colleagues to push about a dozen government bills through parliament this week.

Several HHK lawmakers repeatedly did so on Wednesday and Thursday in plain view of other deputies and journalists covering the parliament sessions. The parliament’s electronic vote system showed that the bills were narrowly passed by the National Assembly. Speaker Samvel Nikoyan and his two deputies upheld these vote results, ignoring protest from Zharangutyun deputies.

In a statement, Zharangutyun described the apparently illegal practice as an “outright falsification” that testifies to an “unprecedented level of political corruption” in Armenia. “On this occasion, the foregoing was done for the parliamentary majority’s illegitimate securing first of a quorum and then of their desired outcomes on several measures of substance,” it said.

Larisa Alaverdian, a Zharangutyun deputy, accused the parliament leadership of deliberately turning a blind eye to HHK deputies’ actions. She also demanded that President Serzh Sarkisian, who is the HHK’s leader, personally react to them.

“There must at least be a reaction,” Alaverdian told reporters. “It was done before everybody’s eyes, it wasn’t hidden.”

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnakstutyun), the other opposition party represented in the parliament, also criticized the HHK majority. “This is not the first such case, there were more outrageous incidents before,” said Vahan Hovannisian, Dashnaktsutyun’s parliamentary leader.

“If you can disregard and flout the law for achieving your political goals, why should I believe that you are going to hold fair elections in Armenia?” Hovannisian asked rhetorically, referring to the authorities.

Galust Sahakian, the leader of the HHK’s parliamentary faction, did not deny that its members pressed the vote buttons of other Republicans. But he emphasized the fact that Alaverdian was the only Zharangutyun deputy present at Thursday’s parliament session. “Absenteeism is a more serious offense than voting in place of your colleagues,” he told a news conference.

The Armenian parliament has struggled to make a quorum during its sessions held this year. Some observers attribute this to the approaching parliamentary elections.
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