A local election held in a village in eastern Armenia was invalidated on Monday because of what officials called a serious discrepancy between the number of registered voters and ballots printed by the Central Election Commission (CEC).
Residents of Daranak village in the Gegharkunik province went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new mayor and village council. Vladimir Sarkisian, the incumbent village chief representing the ruling Republican (HHK), was challenged by two other candidates. One of them is also affiliated with the HHK.
Preliminary official results showed Sarkisian defeating his rivals. However, a district election commission in Gegharkunik declared them null and void and said the vote will be rerun on March 27. The commission chairman, Vartan Nikoghosian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that dozens of Daranak residents were unable to vote because of a lack of ballots.
The problem arose after the local police increased from 122 to 181 the number of Daranak’s eligible voters just days before the ballot. The police said all of the 59 voters who showed a last-minute interest in the election are residents of the village.
However, the CEC found the increase suspicious, suggesting that one of the candidates had residents of nearby communities illegally included on Daranak’s voter registers in an attempt to boost his chances. “The number of voters was raised artificially,” CEC spokeswoman Tatev Ohanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The controversy came as a fresh reminder of chronic election-related problems that have long plagued Armenia. While allegations of fraud and foul play usually accompany national elections or local polls held in Yerevan and other major urban centers, they have not been uncommon in rural communities as well .
As recently as in late December, voting in an election held in a village in the central Aragatsotn province was marred by violence between supporters of two rival candidates. Two villagers were arrested on fraud charges afterwards.