An opposition faction in the Armenian parliament alleged on Wednesday a serious violation during a vote on a bill whose passage required mobilization of the majority lawmakers.
The constitutional law “On the Referendum” required the support of at least three-fifth of the 105-seat parliament, or 63 “for” votes, and was eventually passed with 64 votes to 33.
The parliament’s two opposition factions – the Tsarukian Alliance and Yelk – had spoken against the bill, while the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and its junior coalition partner, Dashnaktsutyun, had supported the proposed legislation.
The HHK and Dashnaktsutyun together control 65 seats, which means that they needed to ensure virtually all of their lawmakers participated in the voting for the passage of the law.
After the vote, however, Nikol Pashinian, the leader of the Yelk faction, claimed that at least one lawmaker, Ashot Arsenian, was not in the chamber when the voting took place, but the electronic voting system showed that he voted in favor of the bill. Pashinian, therefore, claimed a fraudulent “proxy” voting for the lawmaker by one of his colleagues.
Another Yelk lawmaker Ararat Mirzoyan criticized the speaker, Ara Babloyan, for the situation. “Mr. Babloyan, can’t you exclude fraud and vote-rigging at least in this small chamber? This is not the first time we see a situation when one deputy votes instead of another. This is a very essential matter.”
In response to opposition criticism Babloyan said that the remarks by Yelk members were made after some lawmakers had already left the sessions hall, and so, he implied, it was difficult to check the veracity of their claim.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, meanwhile, suggested that arguing over one vote was a moot point since the bill in any case secured at least 63 “for” votes needed for its passage. “All other issues can be discussed later,” he said.
Arguments over the phenomenon of the so-called proxy voting in the Armenian parliament have happened before too. In one such incident in the parliament of the previous convocation in 2014 opposition lawmakers claimed that some majority faction members were voting instead of their colleagues during the vote of confidence in the government.