By Shakeh Avoyan
One of the opposition candidates in the Armenian presidential race accused President Robert Kocharian on Monday of illegally using government buildings and other property for his reelection campaign.
The candidate, Aram Karapetian, said in a statement that many territorial chapters of the Kocharian campaign are based in the offices of local governments in violation of the Armenian Electoral Code. The code prohibits all government officials from using their positions to support any election candidate.
He said many government buildings in small towns and villages carry the incumbent’s campaign posts, which is also illegal under Armenian law.
There is ample evidence of the practice in various rural regions of the country. It was again on display during Karapetian’s visit to the central Aragatsotn province on Monday. The Kocharian campaign headquarters in the provincial capital Ashtarak, for example, is based in a building housing Aragatsotn’s social security department.
Karapetian’s statement is the latest in a series of opposition allegations that Kocharian has ordered the entire state apparatus to facilitate his victory in the February 19 election. The statement also accuses the authorities of creating “an atmosphere of fear and terror” in Armenia with the help of the law-enforcement bodies and “criminal elements.” It claims attempts of vote buying by Kocharian supports in Yerevan and Gyumri.
“We appeal to the authorities and warn that continued use of such methods would cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election results,” the opposition candidate said.
Kocharian has repeatedly pledged to ensure a clean election. He told hundreds of his campaign activists earlier this month not to rely on their wide-ranging government levers.
Little known to the public until recently, Karapetian has emerged as a dark horse of the opposition camp. According to some opinion polls, he would garner between 5 and 7 percent of the vote if the elections were held now.
Some political observers have questioned the legitimacy of Karapetian’s registration as a presidential candidate, arguing that he has lived most of the past decade in Russia. Armenia’s election law stipulates that presidential hopefuls must have “permanently” lived in Armenia for the previous ten years.