Armenian lawmakers on Thursday voted unanimously to set a stricter criminal punishment for offering people various enticements to vote for a particular candidate, party or programs with the offer of cash or somehow else during elections and referendums.
Sixty-six members of the 101-seat National Assembly, who attended the special session, backed, in the first reading, the government-drafted bill amending a number of laws, including the Criminal Code, to that effect.
Deputy Justice Minister Artur Hovannisian, who presented the bill in parliament, called for measures to be taken to exclude pressure, vote buying and other illegal influences on citizens’ expression of will during electoral processes.
“We really need to make sure that citizens make their choices freely,” he said.
The bill envisages criminalization of electoral bribes in any form - be it a promise of cash or provision of cash on preferential terms, provision of food, services or other incentives under the guise of charity – during campaigning periods.
“Today it is also considered illegal, but now only administrative responsibility is envisaged for that, with the highest penalty set at 2.5 million drams (about $5,150). We find that such deeds amount to vote buying. And today vote buying is criminally punishable,” Hovannisian explained.
Under the amendments, the violation may land the offender in prison for up to six years.
The vote on the amendments in the second and final reading is due on September 7.