Armenia’s opposition has reported at least one major case of violence against its activists in the Sunday by-election in which its jailed candidate Nikol Pashinian was contesting a vacant seat in the country’s legislature.
It said one of the Pashinian campaign managers, Petros Makeyan, and his two companions were brutally beaten outside a polling station in downtown Yerevan, with Makeyan suffering a broken nose. All three were reportedly hospitalized with injuries of different severity. Police, however, reported a different account of the events.
In an interview with RFE/RL, the oppositionists contended that they had been beaten up by people with “shaven heads”. They also claimed that the incident took place in the presence of a police worker.
“Instead of containing the thugs, the police worker held my arms so that I could not return the blows,” said Makeyan.
Representative of the opposition Zharangutyun party Narine Vanian also confirmed Makeyan’s account of the events. She said she had reported information about the license plate of the car that she said belonged to the attackers to the Pashinian camp.
The head of the 10/09 precinct election commission declined to answer RFE/RL’s questions, while the same commission’s secretary Artur Khojoyan said they knew nothing about the incident as it was happening outside the polling station.
In a statement released later on Sunday, the Armenian Police said that the quarrel took place between Makeyan, his son Karen and Suren Martirosian on one side and Tigran Muradian, a proxy of Pashinian’s main rival Ara Simonian, on the other. According to the statement, however, it was Muradian who was beaten up. At the same time, the police confirmed the fact of the three oppositionists’ hospitalization.
Pashinian, who is currently in jail on charges related to the 2008 post-election unrest while his trial is continuing, was running against two other candidates, including Simonian, a representative of the formerly opposition National Accord party, and Marxist Party leader David Hakobian.
The campaign leading to the Sunday vote was also marred by violence against activists of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) that has supported Pashinian’s election bid.
A dozen young HAK activists were beaten up by a larger group of unknown people while they were conducting a house-to-house campaign urging Yerevan residents to vote for Pashinian. The HAK then blamed the attack on the Republican Party of Armenia and presented it as another indication that the ruling party has backed Pashinian’s main rival Simonian.
According to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), a total of 361 observers representing ten local organizations monitored the Sunday vote in the Yerevan constituency.
The CEC also said that about 24 percent of some 56,000 eligible voters cast their ballots in the polls. (The general election in this constituency in May 2007, which, as a result of the majoritarian vote, returned to parliament opposition-linked businessman Khachatur Sukiasian, produced a voter turnout of 53 percent.)
Under Armenian law, the CEC is due to present the preliminary results of the vote within ten hours after the closure of the polls (which was at 8.00 pm Sunday).