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Armenian Lawmakers Vote To Increase Penalties For Luring Voters With Cash

A person helping an elderly woman to vote in Armenian local elections last year.

Armenian lawmakers on September 6 voted overwhelmingly to increase penalties for giving people cash and other enticements to vote for a particular candidate, party, or programs during elections and referendums.

All 66 deputies who were present in the 101-seat National Assembly voted in favor of the proposal in the first reading of a government-drafted bill to criminalize electoral bribes in any form -- whether a promise of cash or provision of cash on preferential terms, provision of food, services, or other enticements under the guise of charity -- during campaigning periods.

Under the amendments to Armenian criminal statutes, any violation may land the offender in prison for up to six years.

Deputy Justice Minister Artur Hovannisian presented the bill to parliament and urged lawmakers to back it.

“We really need to make sure that citizens make their choices freely,” he said, noting that some ways of trying to lure votes currently are punished only with fines of up to 2.5 million drams (about $5,150).

"We find that such deeds amount to vote buying. And today vote buying is criminally punishable,” he said.