A senior member of the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on Monday challenged Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian to substantiate his allegations that it has illegally bought votes in various national and local elections.
Naira Zohrabian said that law-enforcement authorities must summon Pashinian for questioning in connection with the allegations.
The National Security Service (NSS) indicted BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian immediately after the Armenian parliament lifted his immunity from prosecution on June 16. The NSS claims that the wealthy businessman “created and led an organized group” that bought more than 17,000 votes for the BHK during parliamentary elections held in 2017.
Tsarukian and his political allies reject the accusations as politically motivated. They say that Pashinian ordered the criminal proceedings in response to the BHK leader’s recent calls for the Armenian government’s resignation.
Pashinian again denied that when he spoke in the parliament controlled by his My Step bloc on June 25. “Is the fact that Prosperous Armenia has earned votes with bribes a revelation?” he said. “Is that a revelation for anyone?”
“I think that our law-enforcement system must also summon the prime minister and tell him to substantiate his information with facts,” countered Zohrabian. “We expect facts. If I had made such a statement they would have definitely summoned me the next day.”
“If I had said, for example, that we have information that various oligarchs, who used to work for the former authorities, very actively worked for one or another candidate of My Step in the 2018 parliamentary elections I would have been immediately summoned for questioning and told to come up with facts,” she said.
Pashinian’s spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgian, dismissed Zohrabian’s demand. “Yes, the prime minister said such a thing and he is not renouncing that statement,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “As for who should be interrogated, that is decided by the relevant [investigating] body.”
In that regard, Gevorgian noted that a former Tsarukian associate, Abraham Manukian, was arrested late last week as part of the same inquiry.
Zohrabian claimed that Manukian’s arrest is aimed at “extracting testimony” against Tsarukian. A spokesman for Prosecutor-General Artur Davtian denied that.
On June 21, a Yerevan court refused to allow the NSS to arrest Tsarukian pending investigation. Prosecutors appealed against the ruling.
Tsarukian’s party controls 25 seats in Armenia’s 132-member National Assembly, making it the country’s leading parliamentary opposition force.