By Karine Kalantarian and Hrach Melkumian
Armenia’s Constitutional Court opened on Thursday hearings on an appeal against the results of the hotly disputed presidential election filed by opposition candidate Stepan Demirchian. He hopes that the court will endorse his allegations of widespread electoral fraud and annul incumbent President Robert Kocharian’s reelection.
The first court session, attended by dozens of parliament deputies, adjourned until Saturday shortly after its start to give Demirchian lawyers time to study documents submitted by the Central Election Commission. The panel of nine judges also accepted their request to require additional election-related documents from the CEC and the police.
Demirchian’s representatives led by Victor Dallakian, chairman of the Armenian parliament’s committee on legal affairs, have submitted about 1,700 pages of what they believe is evidence of massive vote rigging in the two rounds of the election. The court, however, has decided to examine only the claims pertaining to the March 5 run-off.
The CEC is represented at the hearings by its deputy chairman Hamlet Abrahamian and Deputy Minister of Justice Tigran Mukuchian. The commission, dominated by Kocharian supporters, has repeatedly rejected the opposition allegations, saying that the scale of reported ballot box stuffing and other vote irregularities was grossly inflated. According to its final results, Kocharian got 67.5 percent of the vote to Demirchian’s 32.5 percent.
Demirchian and his opposition allies have sounded cautious about their chances of success, telling supporters not to rule out such a possibility. But with Armenian courts rarely challenging the executive authority, few political analysts expect such an outcome.
Demirchian’s application was officially read out by Alvina Gyulumian, a Constitutional Court judge who was elected to the European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday. One of Demirchian’s lawyers claimed that she is no longer a member of Armenia’s highest court and should therefore be barred from the proceedings. However, the court rejected the argument on the grounds that Gyulumian will be sworn in and formally assume her duties at the Strasbourg-based court in November.
The dispute did not keep the opposition representatives from congratulating Gyulumian on becoming the first Armenian member of the European Court whose decisions are now binding for the Armenian state.
“I think it is not going to be an easy work,” Gyulumian told RFE/RL in an interview.
She insisted that in her new capacity she will not hesitate to support rulings against those Armenian government bodies that are found to have violated Armenia’s laws or international obligations. “I don’t think that if the European Court finds that a law has been broken in our country it will damage our international standing,” she said.