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Ter-Petrosian Bloc Shrugs Off Dashnak Campaign Against Vote Rigging


Armenia -- Opposition leader Levon Zurabian addresses supporters in Yerevan, 16 March 2010.

Armenia -- Opposition leader Levon Zurabian addresses supporters in Yerevan, 16 March 2010.

Armenia’s leading opposition force led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian brushed aside on Thursday a public campaign against chronic vote rigging that was announced by the rival opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) last week.


A senior representative of Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) said Dashnaktsutyun has no moral right to campaign for free and fair elections because it has recognized official results of disputed elections held in the country since the late 1990s.

A Dashnaktsutyun leader scoffed at the claims, saying that Armenia’s culture of electoral fraud took root during Ter-Petrosian’s 1991-1998 presidency.

Dashnaktsutyun said last Friday that it is launching a broad-based movement for proper conduct of the next presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Party leaders said it will focus on raising public awareness of electoral rights and discouraging Armenians from selling their votes. They said they are ready to cooperate with all other opposition forces, including the HAK, in that endeavor.

Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator, dismissed the initiative coming just over a year before the next parliamentary elections. “Representatives of Dashnaktsutyun have always stood by those responsible for falsifications,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “They actively participated [in fraud] and accepted [fraudulent] results. Everyone knows that.”

“Let’s not trust in nice-sounding ideas that are empty in reality,” said Zurabian. “Everything is proved by actions, and [Dashnaktsutyun’s] actions prove the opposite,” he added.

Armenia -- Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian (R) visits the Yerevan headquarters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federaiton ahead of the February 2008 presidential election.
Armen Rustamian, the de facto head of Dashnaktsutyun’s governing body in Armenia, rebutted the verbal attack. “Elections started to be falsified in a coordinated, systematic manner during their rule,” he said. “They are now complaining about what they themselves did.”

“The foundation of the existing system of government’s self-reproduction was laid during their rule. It has since grown very deep roots, and in order to counter that, we need to create a united front,” Rustamian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

Western observers criticized as undemocratic Armenia’s firs post-independence parliamentary and presidential elections held in 1995 and 1996 respectively. Dashnaktsutyun was controversially banned by the Ter-Petrosian government ahead of the 1995 vote. Armenia’s first president also ordered troops into Yerevan to quell opposition protests sparked by his hotly disputed reelection in 1996.

Armenia saw much worse unrest following the February 2008 presidential ballot in which Ter-Petrosian was the main opposition candidate. Security forces used deadly force to suppress his massive post-election demonstrations in Yerevan.

Dashnaktsutyun leaders backed the crackdown. Despite also alleging serious fraud, the nationalist party went on to join a coalition government formed by Serzh Sarkisian, the official election winner. It pulled out of the ruling coalition in April 2009.
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