The Armenian opposition accused the ruling Republican Party (HHK) on Thursday of resorting to blatant violations to push a government bill through the parliament.
The bill involved amendments to Armenia’s Judicial Code rejected by the two opposition groups represented in the National Assembly: the Tsarukian Bloc and the Yelk alliance.
The parliament’s electronic voting system showed on Wednesday that only 61 deputies backed it in the first reading, two votes short of the three-fifths majority needed for its passage. Nevertheless, speaker Ara Babloyan said the bill passed because one HHK deputy, Arpine Hovannisian, cast a verbal absentee ballot while another, Rustam Makhmudian, also voted for it but that the system did not count his vote because of a malfunction.
The explanation infuriated leaders of the opposition minority, who accused the HHK-controlled majority of breaking the law. Deputies from the Tsarukian Bloc walked out of the parliament floor on Thursday morning in protest.
Their colleagues from Yelk stayed on and tried unsuccessfully to prevent the bill’s adoption in the second reading. “There is no legal provision that allows an oral statement by a deputy to count as a vote,” said one of them, Nikol Pashinian.
HHK lawmakers countered that they could not restrict Makhmudian’s voting right because of what they insisted was a technical problem.
Yelk responded by exercising, for as many as ten times, its legal right to interrupt a parliament sitting for 20 minutes, leaving many HHK parliamentarians exasperated.
“Do our opposition colleagues object to the law or just want to disrupt the normal work of the National Assembly?” complained Vahram Baghdasarian, the HHK’s parliamentary leader. “I think that they don’t really care about the law right now.”
“This is our last remaining right,” responded Yelk’s Edmon Marukian.
Babloyan, meanwhile, added to the controversy when twice put the bill to a final vote. Thursday’s first vote also fell short of the required majority, something which the speaker blamed for the “disruptive” opposition tactic. He secured the necessary 63 votes during the repeat vote, triggering more opposition allegations of foul play.