By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia’s largest opposition alliance has notified the European Court of Human Rights about its intention to appeal against the official results of this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections marred by serious irregularities, its leaders told RFE/RL Monday.
Stepan Demirchian and other senior members of the Artarutyun (Justice) bloc said they are awaiting a written reply from the Strasbourg-based court to formally file the suit which will include what they say is evidence of a massive vote rigging. They said the judicial body, whose decisions are binding for all 45 member states of the Council of Europe, has been asked to consider and rule on the case in a speedy manner.
Demirchian, who was incumbent President Robert Kocharian’s main challenger, said the greatest difficulty for the opposition is the fact that the European Court has never passed judgments on a presidential election. He claimed that a decision to annul Kocharian’s hotly disputed reelection would stem from the findings of international observers who concluded that both ballots were undemocratic due to widespread fraud.
The joint monitoring missions from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) gave weight to opposition allegations that the polls were falsified in favor of Kocharian and his main loyal parties. Demirchian maintains that he was the rightful winner of the presidential contest held in two rounds on February 19 and March 5. His Artarutyun bloc likewise claims to have been robbed of victory in the May 25 parliamentary polls.
The Armenian authorities have admitted numerous irregularities in the 2003 elections, but insist that those were not serious and widespread enough to affect their outcome. This position was largely upheld by Armenia’s Constitutional Court which has already heard similar appeals from Demirchian and his allies. However, the court dealt a blow to Kocharian’s legitimacy when it suggested that the authorities hold a “referendum of confidence” in the Armenian president to ease the heightened political tensions.
The idea was sharply rejected by the Kocharian administration. But the opposition was quick to seize upon it and now hopes to use it as a major argument in the Strasbourg court. According to Victor Dallakian, a senior Artarutyun lawmaker, opposition lawyers will present the Constitutional Court ruling along with hundreds of pages of documents purporting to prove the falsifications.
Dallakian also revealed that the Demirchian-led opposition is receiving legal counseling from some “authoritative” international organizations and their lawyers. “We are working with prominent European and American lawyers and our cooperation is quite effective,” he said. He refused to name any of them, saying only that “they themselves expressed a desire to cooperate with us.”