By Emil Danielyan
Opposition leader Stepan Demirchian announced on Tuesday that he will file an appeal to Armenia’s Constitutional Court against the final results of the March 5 presidential run-off as more than 20,000 of his supporters again rallied in Yerevan to renew their allegations of electoral fraud.
“The official final results announced today by the Central Election Commission have nothing to do with the real choice made by the people, and those results can not be accepted by me,” Demirchian told the protesters before they marched through the city center to denounce what they see as a stolen election.
“I will appeal the results at the Constitutional Court,” Demirchian added. “And I want to assure you once again that I will consistently fight for the triumph of justice.”
Other opposition leaders speaking at the rally said the Demirchian campaign will take its case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights if Armenia’s highest court rejects its demand to invalidate the vote. They also vowed to continue their campaign of street protests to keep up pressure on the authorities.
“Robert Kocharian is beyond the law. He is not the legitimate president of this country,” charged Albert Bazeyan of the opposition Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party.
“That person has never been elected president; neither in Karabakh, nor in Armenia,” said Vazgen Manukian, an opposition presidential candidate defeated in the February 19 first round of voting.
Another ex-candidate, Aram Karapetian, accused Kocharian of defying “the opinion of the international community,” referring to strong Western criticism of the authorities’ handling of both rounds of the election. “Our pressure on the regime should grow further,” he said.
The opposition leaders said they will both appeal to the Constitutional Court and hold another protest on Friday. They hope that the presence of thousands of people outside the court building in the capital will give weight to their case. However, the court has rarely challenged the executive authority throughout its seven-year existence and few believe that it will overturn the election results that allow Kocharian to stay in power for five more years.
The Constitutional Court is already due to consider a similar appeal filed by Artashes Geghamian, another top opposition candidate who came in third on February 19 but similarly refused to accept his defeat. Geghamian declined to endorse Demirchian for the run-off, urging the latter to boycott it.
Demirchian’s campaign headquarters, meanwhile, is putting together what it says is evidence of numerous irregularities registered by the candidate’s proxies. His campaign chief, Grigor Harutiunian, accused the Central Election Commission on Tuesday of “sabotaging” opposition attempts to get election officials to recount ballots and investigate reported instances of ballot box stuffing and other violations. He said the CEC is particularly opposed to the idea of verifying the voter lists.
The Demirchian campaign claims that the official second-round voter turnout of more than 65 percent is grossly inflated and that according to its calculations, only 1.1 Armenians cast their ballots on March 5. The CEC puts their number at more than 1.5 million.
It is not yet clear whether Demirchian’s lawyers will cite the findings of international election observers in their appeal. About 200 observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe said they witnessed ballot box stuffing and other “serious” irregularities in many polling stations. They concluded in a report that the election fell short of international standards.
The United States likewise expressed its “deep disappointment” last week, saying that the Kocharian administration “missed an important opportunity to advance democratization by holding a credible election.”