By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian authorities are declining to make public the results of an official inquiry into alleged electoral fraud that was ordered by President Robert Kocharian in the wake of his controversial reelection last month.
Kocharian told senior officials from his staff and the Justice Ministry on March 17 to investigate serious vote irregularities reported by international observers and submit their findings to him “within a ten-day period.” The presidential administration has still not released any information regarding the status of the inquiry conducted by an ad hoc “working group.”
“The examination has been carried out on the president’s orders and its conclusions have been submitted to the president of Armenia,” the Justice Ministry spokesman, Ara Saghatelian, told RFE/RL. He said that only Kocharian’s office is in a position to publicize them.
Officials in the presidential administration declined to respond to RFE/RL inquiries throughout this week.
Kocharian announced the probe in response to a highly critical report on then Armenian election released by a joint monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). It said the March 5 presidential run-off fell short of democratic standards because of “widespread” ballot box stuffing and other irregularities.
The observers also deplored “general failure by the Armenian authorities to hold accountable those responsible for irregularities in the [February 19] first round” of voting which was also described as undemocratic by them.
Lord Russell-Johnston, the head of a PACE delegation that visited Yerevan this week, complained that the authorities failed to give clear answers to his queries about the punishment of individuals involved in vote rigging.
Shortly after the poll Armenian prosecutors opened several criminal cases into alleged instances of electoral fraud. However, no one is known to have been arrested or tried on such charges. Furthermore, the prosecutors refused last week to comply with a Constitutional Court order to launch a fresh and more large-scale investigation into the reported violations and report its results to the court by May 20.
The instruction was contained in the court’s controversial ruling on a lawsuit filed by Stepan Demirchian, the defeated presidential candidate. The Office of Prosecutor-General, controlled by Kocharian, rejected it as unconstitutional.