By Ruzanna Stepanian
A top army general who leads the largest association of Armenian veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war predicted on Monday that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be deeply flawed.
Lieutenant-General Manvel Grigorian, chairman of the influential Yerkrapah Union, saw a “100 percent” chance of large-scale vote rigging as he answered questions from RFE/RL. “There are lots of [vote rigging] professionals around,” he said. “So I guess there will be [fraud.]”
The comments will hardly please Armenia’s leaders and Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian in particular. They are at pains to dismiss opposition concerns about a repeat of serious fraud that defined just about every Armenian election held over the past decade.
Grigorian, who is also a deputy minister of defense, said his organization will work hard to ensure that voting and counting of ballots is relatively clean in individual constituencies where Yerkrapah members are running for parliament. “We will make every effort to minimize falsifications in places where there are Yerkrapahs in the running,” he said.
Asked how Yerkrapah plans to do that, Grigorian replied in a typically blunt manner: “In any case, we won’t beat, we won’t kill. We’ll just say polite things.”
Among the several prominent Yerkrapah figures running in single-mandate constituencies is Seyran Saroyan, another top army general and a close friend of Grigorian’s who was discharged from the armed forces to join the race last month. Yerkrapah candidates can also be found on the electoral slates of the governing Republican Party and several other parties.
According to Grigorian, the union wants all of them to get elected. “It doesn’t matter if they are with the Dashnaks, the Republicans or anybody else,” he said. “We will support them.”
The mustachioed general also ruled out his own involvement in the election campaign. “I don’t participate in any elections,” he said. “If necessary, I instruct others to participate, but don’t do that myself.”
The Yerkrapah Union was particularly influential on the Armenian political scene in the late 1990s when it was used by the authorities against their political opponents protesting at electoral fraud. Yerkrapah’s political clout has declined considerably since the October 1999 assassination of its founder, Vazgen Sarkisian.
Incidentally, March 5 marked the 48th birth anniversary of Sarkisian. Grigorian was among top military officials and prominent politicians who visited the Yerablur military cemetery in Yerevan and laid flowers at Sarkisian’s grave on the occasion.