By Anush Martirosian
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) urged President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday to publicly promise that his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) will not use its extensive government levers to win the upcoming mayoral elections in Yerevan.
The extraordinary call came amid opposition allegations that Yerevan’s incumbent Republican Mayor Gagik Beglarian and his subordinates are pressuring public sector employees to help the HHK in the May 31 elections of a new municipal council. In particular, several pro-opposition newspapers have reported in recent days that the heads of public schools across the capital were instructed by the Yerevan municipality to submit the lists of their employees, their family members and other individuals pledging to vote for the Republicans.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman, on Wednesday denied any foul play on the part of the ruling party. “I am calling on everyone not to sign such things because that is illegal and has nothing to do with the Republican Party,” he said. “People doing that are provocateurs.”
The press reports seem to be taken more seriously by Dashnaktsutyun, one of the three junior partners in the HHK-led ruling coalition. “There is an attempt to use administrative levers,” said Artsvik Minasian, a senior Dashnaktsutyun candidate topping the list of the party’s candidates in the polls. “I am aware of that. Representatives of our party have raised the issue with our coalition partners.”
“Only the president of the republic can guarantee that administrative resources will not be used,” Minasian told a news conference. “Election commissions must also counter such actions. But like many other things in our country, [a solution to] this issue depends on the behavior of the commander-in-chief.”
The HHK was likewise accused of using its government levers and resorting to dirty tricks to win last year’s presidential election and the May 2007 parliamentary elections which Western observers described as flawed. It strongly denied any wrongdoing.
The list of the HHK’s 180 candidates for the 65 municipal council seats includes the elected mayors of all of Yerevan’s ten administrative districts as well as at least 60 other local government officials and civil servants. “These people play a serious role in particular areas [of the city,]” explained Sharmazanov. He claimed that they will not illegally exploit their positions to earn the HHK votes.
But a spokesman for the Armenian National Congress (HAK), the only opposition force contesting the elections, insisted that the heavy presence of state officials on the HHK list is a clear sign of an impending vote manipulation. “The experience of the last elections suggests that the officials will be used for that purpose this time as well,” said Arman Musinian.
(Photolur photo: Artsvik Minasian.)