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Dashnaks Concerned About Election Fraud


Armenia -- Armen Rustamian (R) and Artsvik Minasian, leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, at a news conference in Yerevan, 26May2009

Armenia -- Armen Rustamian (R) and Artsvik Minasian, leaders of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, at a news conference in Yerevan, 26May2009

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) expressed on Tuesday concern about the authorities’ conduct of Sunday’s municipal elections in Yerevan, echoing some of the opposition allegations of vote manipulation.

“We too get alarming reports from our campaign offices,” said Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader managing the party’s election campaign. “We’ve heard people say that soldiers will be sent on leave en masse so they can come here and vote. We haven’t seen any factual evidence, but there is such talk.”

“There is also talk of money promised [to voters,]” Rustamian told a news conference. “People have turned elections into business,” he said without naming anyone. “This creates an unhealthy atmosphere in the country.”

The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has repeatedly accused President Serzh Sarkisian and his political allies of planning to falsify vote results to win a majority in a municipal council that will elect Yerevan’s next mayor. In particular, HAK representatives claimed last week that Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) is checking vote registers to make sure that their supporters and bribed voters vote in place of Yerevan residents absent from Armenia.

They also said the Armenian military intends to have its Yerevan-born servicemen vote in the capital in violation of the Electoral Code. The Defense Ministry strongly denied that.

The HAK earlier accused the authorities of forcing public sector employees to pledge to vote for the HHK and its top candidate, the incumbent Mayor Gagik Beglarian. Dashnaktsutyun gave weight to those allegations even before leaving Armenia’s governing coalition late last month in protest against Sarkisian’s conciliatory policy towards Turkey. The nationalist party’s mayoral candidate, Artsvik Minasian, urged the president to publicly guarantee the freedom and fairness of the May 31 polls.

Rustamian said Tuesday Dashnaktsutyun will go to court and take other legal steps to challenge official vote results “if the elections are rigged.” “We hold an election in Armenia once a year and unfortunately every election brings more questions than answers,” he complained. “We must one day step off this path.”

Both Rustamian and Minasian dismissed suggestions that as a party that has been represented in Armenia’s governments in the past decade, Dashnaktsutyun also bears responsibility for the country’s culture of electoral fraud. “Unfortunately, the public gives Dashnaktsutyun few votes but expects it to be responsible for others’ actions,” said Minasian. “That is not fair.”

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