By Ruzanna Stepanian
Opposition leader Artashes Geghamian named on Friday one of the election officials representing his National Unity Party (AMK) who he believes were bribed by the authorities to turn a blind eye on electoral fraud.
He alleged that Zaven Hovannisian, a member of Yerevan’s district election commission No. 13, accepted cash from the local government chief in return for appointing 26 government loyalists to the local precinct-level commissions that will handle Sunday’s constitutional referendum.
“Mr. Hovannisian’s grandson studies at a university and he could not afford paying tuition fees,” Geghamian told RFE/RL. “He could not resist the temptation to receive relevant ‘aid’ from the Erebuni [district] administration or its certain officials. In return for that he committed a crime.”
The AMK and the opposition Artarutyun alliance claim that many of their representatives to the electoral bodies have received offers of bribe and faced intimidation not to resist vote irregularities. This was one of the reasons for their decision to pull out of the government-controlled bodies ahead of the referendum.
The AMK activist could not be immediately reached for comment. Under Armenian law, the AMK, Artarutyun and other political group represented in parliament each can appoint one member of the Central Election Commission and its territorial divisions. But once appointed, those members can not be sacked by their parties at will.
The AMK’s governing board warned earlier this week that commission members who will participate in the referendum process will face expulsion from the party. “All those individuals representing the National Unity Party in the district No. 13 who have not complied with the November 21 decision are bribed by the authorities,” said Geghamian. “The AMK does not bear responsibility for their actions.”