By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s Constitutional Court on Monday continued hearings on appeals of several opposition groups against the official results of the May 12 parliamentary elections.
Four groups, including the Republic (Hanrapetutyun) and New Times parties, and the Impeachment bloc, as well as ex-parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian’s Orinats Yerkir party have wrapped up the presentation of evidence of what they claim to have been large-scale fraud committed during the elections.
The three radical opposition groups pushing for an immediate power change in the country are demanding that the court invalidate the official figures of last month’s elections and order a rerun of voting under the system of proportional representation. And Orinats Yerkir, the only of the four that managed to clear the five percent hurdle to enter the new legislature, is seeking a recount of ballots in some 200 polling stations across the country.
Speaking in court on June 4, an Impeachment bloc representative claimed large-scale violations throughout the election period. Nikol Pashinian qualified the actions of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and the Prosperous Armenia party (BHK), which shared between themselves a total of about 48 percent of the vote, as stepping out of the boundaries of constitutionality to reduce the May 12 vote to “something not foreseen by the constitution and laws.”
In his speech, the Haykakan Zhamanak newspaper’s editor-in-chief tried to substantiate his claims that the electoral violations were of a wholesale, organized and continual nature, making a reference to the mechanism of non-existing voters that he alleged had been widely used during last month’s vote as well as challenging the authorities’ decision to deprive citizens of Armenia living abroad of the opportunity to vote.
Pashinian was several times warned by the Constitutional Court chairman to avoid political statements in his remarks and keep to the legal aspect of the matter.
CEC Chairman Garegin Azarian, who represents the respondent’s side, replied to all accusations of fraud and electoral violations. He described the “judgments” of the claimants as “subjective, based on arbitrary interpretation of the law, and far-fetched.”
Denying all accusations, Azarian admitted only several shortcomings which, he said, could not have an essential impact on the overall process and its outcome.
The four groups challenging the election results presented a number of petitions for the court to consider.
After two hours of deliberations in the afternoon the court decided to sustain only those of more than a dozen petitions presented by the plaintiffs that regard minor concerns, such as the provision of copies of documents, while rejecting petitions to involve in the case as co-respondents the republic’s president, prime minister, representatives of different political parties and state bodies, representatives of political forces in the Central Election Commission (CEC) that refused to put their signatures to the body’s decision on May 19. The petition to invite OSCE observers who registered cases of false inserts in citizens’ passports was also turned down.
The Court also turned down the Impeachment bloc’s petition that the CEC’s May 19 decision should be invalidated and that an expert examination be appointed. It also turned down the request not to recognize Justice Minister David Harutiunian as a co-respondent because of his conflicting interests as a party member and justice minister.
Under Armenian law, the Constitutional Court has to deliver a verdict on the appeals by June 10.