By Karine Kalantarian
An influential Armenian party supporting President Robert Kocharian accused Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) on Tuesday of abusing its governing status to score a landslide victory in Sunday’s local elections. The Orinats Yerkir party said it is nonetheless satisfied with the preliminary results of the polls which will likely give it the second largest representation in local governments.
“Government levers have been used for distorting the electoral process, and we believe that the electoral code must again be amended,” Orinats Yerkir leader Artur Baghdasarian told reporters, clearly referring to the HHK.
Baghdasarian alleged vote irregularities in many communities won by government-connected candidates. He claimed in particular that their supporters were allowed to vote for a second time and that many ballots were cast on behalf of deceased voters.
But Baghdasarian at the same time emphasized that the overall course of the nationwide elections was “satisfactory,” citing a “drastic decline in violent incidents” and a more organized work of election commission. He also said that law-enforcement agencies did not interfere in the voting.
HHK members and their allies swept the overwhelming majority of 37 cities and towns affected by the elections. Orinats Yerkir came in a distant second, with mayoral candidates affiliated with or endorsed by the party winning in five towns and several dozen villages.
Baghdasarian’s party on Tuesday demanded that the Central Election Commission (CEC) annul the results of the election in the town of Ashtarak 25 kilometers west of Yerevan, citing serious irregularities. According to official results, a local member of the HHK defeated an Orinats Yerkir candidate.
CEC chairman Artak Sahradian insisted that the reported irregularities could not affect the outcome of the Ashtarak vote. Sahradian said elections held in other parts of the country were also generally free and fair.