By Anush Dashtents
The fugitive former interior minister Vano Siradeghian’s bid to win back his lost parliament seat all but collapsed late on Sunday when election officials in his former constituency refused to register him as a candidate.
The provincial election commission which administers the May 19 by-election in Siradeghian’s native Noyemberian district in northern Armenia refused to consider his application, citing the absence of an official document certifying that he is an Armenian citizen and permanent resident.
Under Armenian law only those citizens who have lived in the country for the previous five years are eligible to run for the parliament.
The Armenian interior ministry has refused to certify the nationality and five-year residency of its former boss. Earlier this month, a Yerevan court of first instance ordered the ministry to officially state that Siradeghian resided in the country at least until April 2000 when he went into hiding in the face of serious criminal accusations.
But the ministry’s decision to appeal the verdict meant that Siradeghian’s allies from the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) party missed the April 14 deadline for the submission of all required documents. A senior HHSh member, Andranik Hovakimian, told RFE/RL that the provincial election commission did not formally reject their application and that they therefore consider Siradeghian to be a candidate.
Hovakimian also claimed that the commission’s meeting proceeded with serious procedural violations of Armenian law and all of its decisions must be deemed void. He accused the commission, which registered three non-partisan candidates for the Noyemberian by-election, of operating under “stiff government pressure.”
According to a member of the Central Election Commission (CEC) in Yerevan, Armenuhi Zohrabian, the HHSh may still achieve Siradeghian’s registration if it wins another lawsuit. “The issue of Siradeghian’s registration will be decided in the court,” she told RFE/RL.
Siradeghian, who served as interior minister in 1992-96, was elected to the parliament from the same constituency in May 1999. Last November, fellow legislators voted to revoke his mandate on the grounds of his absenteeism.
Siradeghian is believed to have fled Armenia two years ago, anticipating his arrest on charges of ordering a series of political killings while in power. He had already been facing trial on those charges.
The ex-minister and his allies have consistently rejected the charges as politically motivated