By Armen Zakarian
The embattled Armenian opposition will be fighting for an additional seat in the government-controlled parliament in a repeat election that will take place in a constituency in central Yerevan on Sunday.
The vote is again pitting a prominent leader of the opposition Artarutyun alliance, Shavarsh Kocharian, against a member of the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), businessman Vladimir Badalian.
Badalian was already declared the winner of the local contest during the May 25 nationwide polls criticized as undemocratic by Western observers. But his victory, rejected as fraudulent by the opposition, was subsequently annulled by the Constitutional Court, giving Artarutyun a chance to boost its modest presence in the new National Assembly.
Artarutyun refuses to recognize the official results of the elections which showed it winning 16 of the 131 parliament seats. The bloc led by former presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian accuses the authorities of massive electoral fraud.
Kocharian charged on Thursday that the Republican candidate and his government cronies are preparing to repeat serious irregularities registered by international observers and his proxies on May 25. But he said vote manipulation will be more difficult this time as Artarutyun plans to focus its attention and resources on the area. Many prominent opposition politicians have already signed up as his proxies and will fight hard any attempts to falsify the ballot, he added.
Kocharian, who was high in the list of Artarutyun candidates, already holds a parliament mandate under the system of proportional representation. His victory in the single-mandate individual constituency in Yerevan’s Kentron district would give the block an extra party list seat.
Artarutyun leaders admit that that would not be enough for blocking government decisions in the parliament. As one of them put it, active participation in the Kentron vote is part of their efforts to break up Armenia’s “vote rigging machine.”