The chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, chaired on Tuesday the first meeting of a special police task force charged with preventing fraud and other violations during the May 6 parliamentary elections.
The ad hoc body set up last week is headed by one of Gasparian’s deputies, Hunan Poghosian, and comprises other high-ranking police officials, including Ashot Karapetian, head of the Directorate General of Criminal Investigations.
Addressing the task force, Gasparian reiterated his pledges that the police will be “impartial” in enforcing law in the run-up to the elections and on voting day.
“I bear personal responsibility for the peaceful and fair conduct of the elections related to the work of the police,” Gasparian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) after the meeting.
“As police chief, I will once again state that we will be impartial, our approaches will be non-partisan and non-political,” he said. “For the police, there will be no opposition and government during this period. There is only a country, a state, justice and one objective: free and fair elections.”
The Armenian opposition will greet these assurances with skepticism. Opposition parties have long accused law-enforcement authorities of turning a blind eye and even contributing to vote rigging.
Poghosian told the meeting that the task force will have structures in all Armenian regions and launch a hotline for citizens witnessing election-related irregularities. It also plans to closely cooperate with international election observers, he said.
According to Gasparian, the task force will also form special teams tasked with verifying the accuracy of national vote registers released by the police last week.
The lists indicate a sizable increase in the number of Armenia’s eligible voters since 2008, a fact that has prompted strong protests from the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). The HAK claims that the authorities have further inflated the number to be able to cast bogus votes in place of hundreds of thousands of voters absent from the country.
“This is Vova Gasparian’s gift to Serzh Sarkisian aimed at showing that he is a much more talented minister that [his predecessor] Alik Sargsian because he can increase the number of voters by 185,000 in four years,” HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian charged at a rally on Friday.
Gasparian dismissed Ter-Petrosian’s claims and ruled out the possibility of fraudulent voting on behalf of absent voters. “Levon Ter-Petrosian holds rallies and he can say whatever he wants,” he said. “There is no need to comment on Levon Ter-Petrosian’s statements because I simply don’t respond to imaginations.”