By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a major pro-establishment party, accused Monday the Republican Party (HHK) of rigging the May 25 parliamentary elections, but said it is nonetheless ready to stay in the HHK-led government of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.
The criticism was a further blow to the legitimacy of the elections branded as undemocratic by the Armenian opposition and Western observers. Dashnaktsutyun is the largest and most influential of parties supporting President Robert Kocharian that have challenged the official vote results.
“The ruling party has thoroughly used administrative levers of the state to artificially inflate its votes and bolster other political forces and [individual] majoritarian candidates,” Dashnaktsutyun’s leadership said in a written statement read out by one of its leaders, Aghvan Vartanian.
The nationalist party said the Republicans secured their controversial win by stuffing ballots and fixing results in about half of the country’s 56 electoral districts. It also denounced “widespread and overt” vote buying and alleged that thousands of army conscripts were illegally forced to vote for the HHK.
“The blatant buying and selling of votes laid the dangerous groundwork for political immorality in the country,” the statement said.
The final vote results announced by the Central Election Commission at the weekend are seen as a major setback for Dashnaktsutyun which hoped to considerably boost its presence in Armenia’s government with a strong showing. The presence among its top candidates of Kocharian’s chief of staff, Artashes Tumanian, underscored that drive.
However, the party will have only 11 seats in the new National Assembly, or roughly as many as it had in the previous parliament. The Republicans, by contrast, won more than 30 seats and are expected to enjoy the backing of over 20 non-partisan lawmakers.
The Dashnaks, who are represented in the current government with two ministers, distanced themselves from Markarian’s cabinet during the election campaign, denouncing rampant corruption and “injustice” reigning in Armenia. Still, the party now appears anxious not to burn bridges with the HHK. Its statement stressed that Dashnaktsutyun considers the elections “valid” for the sake of continued political stability.
“We wish the majority force success, urging it at the same time to be conscious of difficult internal and external political, economic, social and psychological challenges facing the country and act with that responsibility,” it said.
Vartanian and another Dashnaktsutyun leader, Armen Rustamian, said they have been offered to form a “coalition government” with the Republicans. “We did receive such an offer and are currently considering it,” Rustamian said, adding that his party supports the idea in principle.
The idea of a coalition government was publicly floated by Kocharian on the eve of the elections. The HHK leadership has sounded cool towards it, however.
In an interview with RFE/RL last week, Markarian said the Dashnaks must share with the Republicans full responsibility for his government’s policies if they are to get ministerial posts. He also made it clear that the HHK will not cede control over the Defense Ministry and other security agencies.
Vartanian scoffed at the remarks, describing them as “odd.” “Nobody has ever thought that the post of defense minister belongs to the Republican Party,” he told reporters. He also warned that the Republicans should not take the post of prime minister for granted as it is Kocharian’s prerogative to appoint the latter.
The current Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, though not formally affiliated with the HHK, was second in the party’s list of election candidates.
(Photolur photo: Vartanian, right, and Rustamian speaking at a joint news conference.)