The pro-government majority in Armenia’s parliament on Wednesday prevented a planned debate on an opposition bill which is meant to foster the proper conduct of next February’s presidential election.
The parliament leadership scheduled the debate after it was formally demanded by more than 40 deputies representing the Armenian National Congress (HAK), the author of the bill, and other minority factions.
Deputies from the ruling Republican Party (HHK) and its junior partner in the governing coalition, Orinats Yerkir, boycotted the session to ensure that it does not make a quorum. Only 46 members of the 131-seat National Assembly showed up for the debate.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, denounced the HHK boycott as unconstitutional. “Article 70 of the Armenian constitution explicitly gives the opposition the right to initiate a debate on an issue even if the parliamentary majority is against it,” Zurabian told journalists. “What the Republican Party did today is a violation of the constitution.”
Armen Rustamian, a leader of the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), also criticized the disruption, saying that he will report the matter to the parliament’s Ethics Committee.
Galust Sahakian, the leader of the HHK’s parliamentary faction, defended his party’s actions. He said the parliamentary majority has a legitimate right to decide the parliament agenda.
The HHK warned that it will thwart the debate immediately after the HAK unveiled last week a raft of legal amendments which it says would complicate vote rigging.