Armenian opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian has accused the government of making preparations for electoral fraud by means of inflating the number of voters ahead of the May parliamentary elections.
Addressing thousands of members and supporters of his opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) bloc at a public rally in Yerevan on Friday, the former president described fraudulent electoral rolls as the 'main resource' for potential falsifications at the upcoming elections in Armenia.
Ter-Petrosian, in particular, referred to the officially published voter register suggesting that the number of eligible voters in Armenia has increased by about 185,000 people since the last general election in 2008. According to the official websites of the Police and the Central Election Commission, the current number of the voting-age population in Armenia is around 2,485,000.
The rise that the Armenian police explained by an improved citizen registration process raised further questions among the country’s opposition groups and some independent observers, considering the preliminary data of the October 2011 census showing Armenia’s permanent population decreasing by some 415,000 to around 2,870,000 over the 10-year period.
In the past several days a number of local opposition newspapers and online media have published some evidence of glaring inaccuracies in the voter lists, including the registration of more than a hundred people in one Yerevan apartment and the presence in the lists of the name of at least one prominent Armenian public figure who died more than two years ago. Both publications have become a matter for immediate investigation by law-enforcement agencies.
“These additional 185,000 voters are a present from [Police Chief] Vova Gasparian to [President and ruling Republican Party leader] Serzh Sarkisian,” the HAK leader claimed in his speech. He alleged that this way Gasparian, whom Sarkisian appointed to his current post only last November, is trying to prove his being a chief of police of ‘greater genius’ than his predecessor.
Meanwhile, an Armenian police official overseeing the voter list update process has dismissed the speculation of any deliberate action to include dead or non-existing persons in these lists – a claim that has dogged the Armenian authorities during virtually all previous national and local elections. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) earlier this week head of the Police’s Passport and Visa Department Hovannes Kocharian acknowledged, though, that occasional inadvertent inaccuracies could still be found in the lists.
During the rally HAK leader Ter-Petrosian also urged citizens and media representatives to show an active position and continue to raise the issue of transparency of the vote.
Meanwhile, the Armenian police issued an appeal to all political parties, public organizations, civil movements and ordinary citizens to immediately report all kinds of violations they might come across in the electoral process.
In the statement the police also pledged not to disclose in their public records the names of the citizens providing tip-offs about such violations, including vote-buying attempts by representatives of political parties.