By Ruzanna Stepanian
Tensions between Armenia’s two main governing parties rose on Saturday after a reported mass brawl between their activists outside a polling station in Yerevan.
The Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) blamed each other for the most serious case of violence reported during the parliamentary elections.
HHK-linked members of the precinct election commission in Yerevan’s northern Nor Nork suburb claimed that the incident was provoked by a Dashnaktsutyun activist who tried to vote twice for his party before being confronted by a Republican proxy. Marine Soghomonian, the commission secretary, said the man again visited the polling station and attacked the proxy with a group of other Dashnaktsutyun members shortly afterwards. Republican activists were swiftly alerted and joined the fight, she said.
“At first, Dashnaks were beating Republicans, then Republicans took over and started beating them after arriving in jeeps,” Soghomonian told RFE/RL. “It was like a massacre.” No gunshots were fired, she added.
A Dashnaktsutyun leader, Armen Rustamian, confirmed that there was a “big clash” in Nor Nork but blamed it on the Republicans. He said Dashnaktsutyun activists were attacked after preventing vote rigging by the HHK. Rustamian did not elaborate, promising to make more detailed comments on Sunday.
Ruben Hayrapetian, an HHK-affiliated businessman who was also reportedly involved in the incident, strongly denied this version of events. “Armen Rustamian and other members of his party are the biggest fraudsters,” he told RFE/RL “The whole party is now blackmailing us. This is disgraceful.”