By Karine Kalantarian and Hrach Melkumian
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) was formally declared on Saturday the winner of the May 25 parliamentary elections amid more allegations of vote rigging voiced by its rivals. The Armenian opposition announced that it will dispute the official outcome of the ballot in the Constitutional Court.
According to the final vote results announced by the Central Election Commission (CEC), the HHK led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian won 23.7 percent of the vote or 23 seats in the 131-member parliament under the proportional representation system. The Republicans also won more than a dozen seats in individual first-past-the-post races and will enjoy the backing of over 20 deputies not affiliated with any party.
The official figures, which are virtually identical with the CEC’s preliminary tally, put the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) bloc in second place with 13.8 percent of the party-list vote or 14 parliament seats. It won only three additional mandates in the single-seat constituencies.
Artarutyun was followed by two major parties supporting President Robert Kocharian: Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). They got about 12.5 percent and 11.5 percent respectively. Orinats Yerkir will boast the second largest parliament faction, 18 seats, thanks to its strong showing in the “majoritarian” constituencies. The Dashnaktsutyun faction will have only 11 deputies -- a major setback for the nationalist party which hoped to substantially boost its political clout.
Another opposition party, Artashes Geghamian’s National Unity, placed fifth with almost 9 percent giving it 9 parliament seats.
Only one other group, the United Labor Party of pro-Kocharian businessman Gurgen Arsenian, passed the 5 percent vote threshold for entering the National Assembly. The party was little known before the elections. Several other pro-Kocharian parties failed to do that, the CEC said.
The final CEC tally was rejected as fraudulent by Artarutyun hours before its publication. The bloc, which claims to have won the election by a large margin, demanded that the CEC invalidate the figures.
“Of course, the CEC will almost certainly turn down our appeal, and we will continue our struggle by contesting the election results in the Constitutional Court,” one of Artarutyun’s leaders, Albert Bazeyan, told a news conference earlier on Saturday.
The credibility of the final results was also challenged by several pro-establishment parties. The CEC’s deputy chairman, Hamlet Abrahamian of Dashnaktsutyun, declined to vote for the body’s party-list protocol. Another CEC member representing Orinats Yerkir endorsed it, but claimed that his party was robbed of 80,000 votes that would have given it an extra 7 seats. Fraud allegations have also been made by some of the other pro-presidential parties that failed to win any seats.
The leadership of Artarutyun, meanwhile, appears divided over whether or not it should boycott sessions of the new parliament in protest against the reported irregularities that led Western observers to conclude that the elections were not democratic. Bazeyan said his Hanrapetutyun (Republic) party stands for the boycott. However, several other opposition leaders have argued that Artarutyun should use the parliament in its fight against the ruling regime.
In a related move, the CEC confirmed the defeat of Kocharian’s draft amendments to Armenia’s constitution at a referendum also held on May 25. It said that only 46 percent of some 1.22 million Armenians who took part in the referendum voted for the proposed changes. To pass, those needed the backing of at least 780,000 voters.