A parliament deputy from the Orinats Yerkir Party, a junior partner in Armenia’s governing coalition, has effectively accused the ruling Republican Party (HHK) of buying votes to win this month’s parliamentary elections.
“You know very well who gave and who took vote bribes,” Ishkhan Khachatrian told journalists late on Monday, pointing the finger at “those political forces that got most votes.”
Asked whether he means the HHK and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the election runner-up, Khachatrian said, “I’ll leave conclusions to you. I’m not giving names. I’m just pointing out that our votes shrunk only because of vote bribes.”
Pressed by reporters, Khachatrian was careful not to explicitly attack the HHK. “No, I’m not accusing,” he said. “We can conclude today that our elections marked one step forward.”
It is not clear if the remarks reflected the party’s official position. Orinats Yerkir representatives could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The party chairwoman, Heghine Bisharian, likewise alleged widespread vote buying in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) last week. She said that tens of thousands of Orinats Yerkir members sold their votes to other parties that she declined to name.
According to the official election results, Orinats Yerkir garnered 5.4 percent of the vote, just enough to enter the new National Assembly under the proportional representation system. It will have 6 seats in the 131-member legislature, compared with at least 69 seats won by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republicans and 37 seats by the BHK.
A senior HHK member, Hovannes Sahakian, scoffed at the Orinats Yerkir parliamentarian’s claims. “Those political forces that have some problems in terms of the number of votes … refer to vote bribes because we all know that vote buying is a violation which is extremely difficult to prove,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“Sometimes we see weird manifestations on our political scene and this one is no exception and you should not be surprised with it,” he said, commenting on the fact that Orinats Yerkir wants to remain represented in Sarkisian’s government despite the election criticism.
Orinats Yerkir itself faced opposition allegations of vote buying in the run-up to the May 6 elections.