By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia's Central Election Commission has urged the government to take disciplinary action against authorities in the southern town of Armavir where elections of mayor earlier this month were marred with fraud allegations.
The March 10 elections took place amid reports of numerous inaccuracies in the voter registers which one of the three mayoral candidates claims affected the outcome of the vote.
The CEC chairman, Artak Sahradian, has sent a letter to the government saying that Armavir’s outgoing mayor, Harutiun Mkhoyan, should be held responsible for the inaccuracies, a CEC official told RFE/RL on Wednesday. The official, Armenuhi Zohrabian, said there has been no reaction from ministers yet.
Under Armenian law, the government in Yerevan may initiate a court action against the head of a local administration for vote irregularities. Zohrabian said the Armavir mayor should have made sure that only eligible voters are included in the lists.
Mkhoyan came in third in the polls. Another defeated candidate, Ara Aghababian, has alleged that their official winner, Ararat Zakarian, enjoyed the support of the provincial administration. He says the latter manipulated the voter lists to achieve desired results.
An Armavir court on Friday rejected Aghababian’s demand that the elections be re-run. The ruling can not an appealed.
All three candidates are not affiliated with any political party. But Zakarian is reportedly close to the governor of Armavir province, Albert Heroyan.
Heroyan was on Wednesday again accused by Aghababian’s supporters of rigging the vote. They warned that the approaching nationwide elections will also be mired in controversy unless the authorities in Yerevan investigate the Armavir scandal.
“The latest elections showed that nothing has changed in Armenia: the same irregularities, the same methods of doing them,” said Aghababian’s lawyer, Vartan Zurnachian.
Voting in the most recent parliamentary elections in Armenia, held in May 1999, was characterized by widespread confusion resulting from the inaccurate voter lists, with tens of thousands of people unable to cast their ballots.