By Ruzanna Khachatrian
A leading member of the governing Republican Party (HHK) downplayed on Wednesday a follow-up report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that contrasted with Western observers’ positive assessment of the conduct of the Armenian parliamentary elections.
The report issued by the OSCE’s election observation mission late last week stopped short of describing the May 12 vote as largely democratic and stressed instead that counting of ballots in a large number of polling stations was deeply flawed. It said OSCE monitors found “discrepancies, some of them significant” between vote results reported by various-level election commissions.
The mission’s preliminary findings, endorsed by observers from the Council of Europe and the European Union, were more positive. Their joint May 13 report concluded that the polls were “conducted largely in accordance with international standards for democratic elections.” That gave a massive boost to the international legitimacy of the official vote results that showed the HHK sweeping to a landslide victory.
“It’s natural that [the two reports] are very different,” Tigran Torosian, the HHK’s deputy chairman and Armenia’s outgoing parliament speaker, told RFE/RL. “It is natural that the overall tone [of the post-election report] is less positive than that of the previous one because they were supposed to talk only about shortcomings witnessed during counting and tabulation of ballots.”
Torosian insisted that the observers remain of the opinion that “on the whole, the elections were a success and had nothing in common with the previous elections” that were strongly criticized by the West.
Still, there are indications that the Armenian authorities are worried about the latest report’s implications for the OSCE’s final election verdict due to be announced by the end of next month. The chairman of the Central Election Commission, Garegin Azarian, and Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian promptly sent letters to the head of the OSCE mission, Boris Frlec. Hovsepian asked the latter to provide “concrete information about those electoral precincts where the mentioned violations were recorded.”
Hovsepian’s spokeswoman, Sona Truzian, said Frlec has still not responded to the letter. Nonetheless, she said, the chief prosecutor has instructed his subordinates to investigate violations reported by the OSCE.
Meanwhile, the Armenian opposition, which is contesting the election results in several lawsuits filed to the Constitutional Court, is clearly buoyed by the criticism. “We thought that [the authorities] managed to blindfold the observers who seemed to have not seen any fraud,” said Aram Sarkisian of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party. “But as it turned out, people are quite informed.”
“The scope of the struggle is widening, and the opposition is having more hopes,” Sarkisian told RFE/RL. “What the observers stated substantiated the documents which we have submitted to the Constitutional Court. I find that very positive.”