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By Karine Kalantarian

The governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) rejected on Friday opposition accusations of foul play in its preparations for the upcoming local, presidential and parliamentary elections.

The party’s parliamentary leader, Galust Sahakian, dismissed continuing criticism of controversial amendments to the Armenian election law which allowed the Republicans to sideline the opposition People’s Party (HZhK), their former coalition partner.

The HZhK, which has lost representation in the newly formed election commissions, accused the authorities on Thursday of planning to falsify the results of the elections and illegally cling to power. The center-left party, which is one of the largest and most popular in Armenia, charged that the HHK has “betrayed” the founders of their now defunct Miasnutyun (Unity) bloc assassinated in the 1999 terrorist attack on the parliament.

The murder of parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian led to Miasnutyun’s de facto collapse last year. But the bloc’s parliamentary faction, the largest in the National Assembly, formally continues to exist and controls one of nine seats in various-level election commissions. Most of the faction’s 46 members are affiliated with the HHK, putting it in a position to name only its loyalists.

Speaking to RFE/RL, Sahakian said Miasnutyun deputies will meet on Saturday to appoint their members of 56 district commissions responsible for the conduct of the elections. He said the Republicans, who have already appointed their representative to the Central Election Commission, will oppose the inclusion of any HZhK members in the other electoral bodies.

Sahakian also claimed that the amended election will in fact improve the deeply flawed election procedures in Armenia. He argued that the freedom and fairness of the polls first of all depends on the “political will” of those who conduct them. “At least, the Republicans have that will,” he added.

Some HHK activists, however, were reportedly involved in ballot box stuffing and other irregularities that marred the previous presidential elections held in 1998.
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