By Ruzanna Stepanian
The governing Republican Party (HHK) is mindful of negative consequences of vote rigging for Armenia and will therefore ensure that the next national elections are free and fair, a senior party figure claimed on Monday.
Samvel Nikoyan said a repeat of serious fraud would pose a “threat to national security.” “Thank God, the party has all the resources to organize and win such an election,” he told journalists.
The HHK, which is the country’s largest establishment party, officially controls only one out of nine seats in various-level commissions in charge of holding presidential, parliamentary and local elections in Armenia. But its tight grip on most local government bodies and vast financial resources give it additional leverage to influence the outcome of those elections.
The Republicans, who are officially led by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, already used that leverage to win the last Armenian parliamentary election in May 2003. The vote was marred by serious irregularities and judged undemocratic by Western monitors. Even the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the HHK’s junior partner in the governing coalition, denounced it as deeply flawed.
Fears about a fresh HHK recourse to fraud have increased considerably ever since the party forged a far-reaching alliance with the powerful Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and wealthy businessmen close to him. Many of them have been implicated in vote rigging in the past.
Leaders of the Armenian opposition claim that the Republicans will seek to win the next parliamentary election, due early next year, at any cost. They will therefore scoff at Nikoyan’s assurances.
Nikoyan, who is close to Markarian, admitted that the Republicans are aiming for victory in the 2007 polls, but insisted that they will not break the law for that purpose. “There is no alternative to democratic elections,” he said.
The lawmaker also pointed to the impending passage by parliament of a package of amendments to Armenia’s electoral code. They are aimed at complicating ballot box stuffing and other irregularities. Opposition leaders have dismissed the proposed changes as insignificant and irrelevant.
(Photolur photo: Markarian addresses an HHK congress in July.)