By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia’s highest court began considering on Friday opposition demands to invalidate the official results of last month’s disputed parliamentary elections.
The main opposition contender of the May 25 polls, the Artarutyun (Justice) alliance, wants the Constitutional Court to rerun elections for the 75 parliament seats distributed among parties and blocs. Artarutyun representatives opened the court hearings with a lengthy presentation of what they said is evidence of large-scale electoral fraud. One of them, Arshak Sadoyan, said the falsifications had an “organized and massive character.”
The first court session adjourned until July 3 after the chief justice, Gagik Harutiunian, decided to request a package of official documents, including the vote results from every polling station, from the Central Election Commission (CEC). The CEC is represented at the hearings by Deputy Minister of Justice Tigran Mukuchian.
Artarutyun refuses to recognize the official elections results that showed it winning almost 14 percent of party list votes which translated into 14 seats in the 131-member National Assembly. The bloc claimed victory shortly after the closure of polls.
The Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian was declared the winner of the elections with about 24 percent of the vote. However, the legitimacy of the HHK victory was challenged not only by the opposition but also other parties supporting President Robert Kocharian. Among them were the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir Party with which the Republicans formed a coalition government earlier this month.
About 200 U.S. and European observers who closely followed the elections reported numerous instances of “serious fraud” in the counting of ballots and concluded that the vote fell short of democratic standards. The Armenian authorities admit vote irregularities but insist that those were not significant enough to affect the outcome of the parliamentary race.
A court decision to declare the party list figures invalid would result in a de facto dissolution of Armenia’s new parliament where Kocharian’s political allies command a comfortable majority, and is therefore believed to be unlikely.
Apart from the Artarutyun appeal, the Constitutional Court received lawsuits from individual candidates defeated in 16 single-mandate constituencies across the country. The panel of nine judges has already called a repeat election in one of them.