Eight men elected to Armenia’s new parliament on the ticket of businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance have challenged and invalidated his decision to give their seats to other candidates who ran in the April 2 elections.
According to the official election results, the Tsarukian Bloc won 27.3 percent of the vote and 31 seats in the 105-member National Assembly. Under Armenian law, those mandates must be given to candidates occupying the corresponding top positions on its electoral list.
The alliance’s leadership formally notified the Central Election Commission (CEC) this week that as many as 23 of its presumably elected candidates have decided to cede their seats to other hopefuls who are below them in the Tsarukian Bloc’s pecking order. It submitted letters of resignation supposedly signed by them.
The CEC chairman, Tigran Mukuchian, said on Wednesday that 12 of those candidates subsequently told the commission that they never decided to relinquish their parliament seats. The CEC sided with 8 of them when it met later in the day. It said that the four other applicants were not actually elected to the National Assembly.
The reinstated deputies included, Napoleon Azizian, a businessman based in Yerevan. “I’ve been lying sick in bed and haven’t left my home since April 2,” Azizian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). Speaking before the CEC meeting, he made clear that he intends to take up his seat.
Asked whether he has discussed the situation with Tsarukian or his entourage, Azizian said: “No, they don’t answer my phone calls.”
“For me, at issue is not my mandate but justice,” said Mushegh Saghatelian, another elected candidate whom Tsarukian tried unsuccessfully to bar from the legislature.
The Tsarukian Bloc did not comment on the embarrassing controversy as of Wednesday evening. It remains to be seen whether the eight disgruntled men will join its parliamentary faction.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Sergey Bagratian, one of those lawmakers, said when asked whether he will sever his links with the second largest parliamentary force.
“They didn’t talk to us before presenting [the letters of resignation,]” Bagratian told reporters. “That gave us the right not to talk to them now.”
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has decided to replace 9 of its 58 elected deputies. Among them are Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian, Culture Minister Armen Amirian and Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian. Armenian law bars them from simultaneously serving in the executive and legislative branches of government.