Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on Wednesday implicitly accused the pro-government majority in the National Assembly of rigging the results of Tuesday’s election of the new parliament speaker.
According to the official results, Galust Sahakian of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) was backed by 101 members of the 131-seat legislature, compared with only 3 votes cast for his sole opposition challenger, Hrant Bagratian.
With the HHK holding 70 parliament seats and all three established opposition factions boycotting the vote, the official tally suggests that the vast majority of the 36 deputies representing the BHK voted for Sahakian. Many of those deputies made a point of congratulating the new speaker on the parliament floor, a fact that raised fresh questions about the party’s opposition credentials.
BHK spokesman Tigran Urikhanian claimed that around a dozen members of the party’s parliamentary faction in fact voted for Bagratian. Asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) whether that means the BHK considers the secret ballot fraudulent, Urikhanian said, “I have deep doubts, distrust and skepticism regarding that vote count.”
But Sukias Avetisian, the HHK-affiliated chairman of a parliament commission that counted the ballots, categorically ruled out the possibility of any fraud. “The commission properly counted what was inside the ballot box,” he said.
Avetisian said at the same time that the BHK can ask the parliament leadership for a ballot recount.
Tsarukian’s party did not decide to formally challenge the election outcome as of Thursday evening.