The three main challengers of President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) on Friday disputed the legitimacy of its landslide victory in Armenia’s parliamentary elections, saying that the vote was marred by “widespread irregularities.”
The Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) alleged voter list manipulation and multiple fraudulent voting.
“Violating legal provisions, the Central Election Commission (CEC) failed to ensure the proper application of passport stamps, the most important tool for preventing multiple voting,” read a statement issued by their Inter-Party Center for Public Oversight of the Elections.
“The voter lists used in the elections and the officially announced number of voters who took part in the elections are also extremely dubious,” it said, adding that the newly elected National Assembly therefore “does not reflect the real picture of popular support for political forces.”
The statement presented at a news conference held by senior BHK, HAK and Dashnaktsutyun representatives also said the three political forces will carry on with their joint efforts to “change the vicious electoral system created in the country.”
The three groups rang alarm bells over Armenia’s electoral rolls in the run-up to Sunday’s elections, saying that the authorities have inflated them to be able to cast bogus votes for the HHK. Accordingly, they demanded that the CEC publicize the names of those Armenians will have gone to the polls.
The authorities rejected the demand, strongly denying voter list manipulation. In particular, they argued that multiple voting will be precluded by ink stamps put in voters’ passports at polling stations.
However, those stamps routinely faded or disappeared altogether within minutes on polling day. The CEC blamed the problem on poor quality of ink and its incorrect use by lower-level election officials. Opposition leaders insist, however, that this was done deliberately to enable Armenians supporting the HHK or bribed by the ruling party to vote in two or more polling stations.
“Putting all these things together, do I, as a citizen of the Republic of Armenia, have a right to at least suspect that a pre-planned state effort was behind this?” said Vartan Oskanian, a former foreign minister who was second on the BHK’s electoral slate.
Oskanian and his opposite numbers from the HAK and Dashnaktsutyun stood by their earlier claims that the official voter turnout of more than 62 percent was grossly inflated. The HAK’s Levon Zurabian said only up to 900,000 people took part in the parliamentary elections. The CEC put the figure at more than 1.5 million.
The joint reaction raised more questions about the BHK’s continued presence in Armenia’s HHK-dominated governing coalition. The party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian is represented in Sarkisian’s current cabinet by four ministers.
In Oskanian’s words, the BHK leadership lacks unanimity on the issue and has made no final decision yet. Asked about Tsarukian’s position, he said, “Right now he is simply listening to various opinions. This is my impression.”
“I personally am categorically against the BHK entering a non-real coalition,” stressed Oskanian. “I personally fought against [the HHK’s] political monopoly during the entire election campaign and will continue fighting.”
“In any case, I, Vartan Oskanian, will never agree to shoulder responsibility for non-real coalition agreements,” he added. He did not confirm, though, that this means he will quit the BHK if Tsarukian agrees to cut a new power-sharing deal with the Armenian president.
According to the CEC’s preliminary results, the BHK won 30 percent of the vote and will have 36 seats in the 131-member parliament, compared with 69 seats won by the HHK. The opposition HAK and Dashnaktsutyun will have 7 and 6 seats respectively.