Armenia’s outgoing parliament on Tuesday failed to discuss and vote on prosecutors’ request to allow the arrest of one of its deputies accused of corruption.
The Office of the Prosecutor-General said on Monday that the lawmaker affiliated with the former ruling Republican Party (HHK), Aram Harutiunian, received $14 million in bribes in 2008 when he served as minister of environment protection. It said a businesswoman, Silva Hambardzumian, paid the money in return for obtaining a dozen mining licenses from Harutiunian’s ministry.
Parliament speaker Ara Babloyan promptly scheduled a debate on the issue for Tuesday.
However, the session did not take place because the 105-member National Assembly failed to make a quorum.
“Only 26 deputies have registered [for the session] and we don’t have a quorum,” Babloyan told the largely empty chamber. “We will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m.”
Alen Simonian, a deputy allied to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, blamed his HHK colleagues for the boycott. “They are not coming here in order not to hand over their comrade, so to speak,” Simonian told reporters.
The HHK, which is led by former President Serzh Sarkisian, holds 50 seats in the parliament.
Khosrov Harutiunian (no relation to Aram Harutiunian), one of the few Republicans who showed up for the failed session, denied that his party is sabotaging the criminal investigation into the former minister. He noted that deputies representing other parliamentary factions were also absent. He attributed the poor attendance to ongoing campaigning for the December 9 parliamentary elections.
HHK leaders claimed on Monday that the prosecutors’ motion to arrest Aram Harutiunian was deliberately timed to coincide with the campaign. They said Pashinian is thereby trying to boost his popularity ahead of Sunday’s vote.
Pashinian made clear, for his part, that the outgoing parliament’s possible refusal to lift Harutiunian’s immunity from prosecution would only briefly delay his prosecution.
The ex-minister also did not come to the parliament and remained unreachable for the media on Tuesday. It is not clear whether he is still in Armenia.