Armenia’s new parliament elected a government-backed speaker on Thursday during its inaugural session attended by President Serzh Sarkisian but boycotted by two of the three opposition groups represented in the National Assembly.
Hovik Abrahamian was elected to chair the 131-seat assembly by a vote of 102 to 4. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) nominated him for the post late on Wednesday.
“It’s now time to work,” Abrahamian told fellow legislators after the vote. Speaking to journalists afterwards, he said he “will not hesitate to criticize the government” if need be.
The HHK controls 69 seats in the parliament, suggesting that Abrahamian’s candidacy was also backed by many deputies from the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force. Six other lawmakers representing the pro-government Orinats Yerkir party are also likely to have backed the sole candidate for the post.
The parliamentary factions of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, which control a total of 12 parliament seats, boycotted the session in protest against official results of the May 6 parliamentary elections which they consider illegitimate.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), the third opposition group in the parliament, did not join the boycott. Still, the five Dashnaktsutyun deputies refused to take part in the speaker’s election.
“My wish is that we work in a way that will make nobody regret their choice and that will live up to all expectations,” Sarkisian said in a speech in the parliament. “We can do a lot.”
The president welcomed the fact that all five Armenian parties that were represented in the previous National Assembly have won seats in the new parliament as well. He also congratulated the opposition HAK on its first-ever presence in the legislature.
“I think we have an active parliament where the main influential players of the political field are represented,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian went on to praise the Armenian authorities’ handling of the “fairly mature” parliamentary elections. “Every election in Armenia must be considerably better than the previous ones were,” he said. “We managed to hold such elections and we will succeed in substantially improving the effectiveness and focus of our work.”
“I personally am in a mood to work, and to work with everyone in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation,” he added.