The National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to elect Galust Sahakian, the longtime parliamentary leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), as its new speaker on Tuesday.
Sahakian, whose candidacy for the vacant post was proposed by President Serzh Sarkisian, was backed 103 members of the 131-seat parliament. His sole challenger, maverick opposition deputy Hrant Bagratian, received only 3 votes.
The vast majority of other opposition lawmakers boycotted the vote in line with separate decisions made by the Armenian National Congress (HAK), the Zharangutyun party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
By contrast, most deputies from the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force, joined their pro-government colleagues in voting for Sahakian. One of them, Karo Krapetian, said of the new speaker, “He is a wonderful person. I love and respect him a lot.”
The BHK chose to effectively back Sahakian despite having increasingly cooperated with the established opposition forces in recent months. Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK lawmaker, said members of her parliament faction were given a free vote because the four parties did not formulate a common position on the new speaker.
Sahakian thanked his BHK backers as well as President Sarkisian and fellow Republicans after the announcement of the vote results. “I like fighting and have always achieved success in my life through fighting,” the 66-year-old declared.
The previous parliament speaker, Hovik Abrahamian, was appointed Armenia’s prime minister earlier this month. He too is a senior member of the ruling HHK.