Armenia’s leading opposition groups dismissed on Friday President Serzh Sarkisian’s latest pledge to ensure the proper conduct of the upcoming presidential election.
Addressing a European People’s Party congress in Bucharest on Wednesday, Sarkisian said his administration will do its best to ensure that the election scheduled for next February is “free, fair, transparent and democratic.” He said it is already taking “preparatory measures” stemming from the recommendations of European observers that monitored Armenia’s May 6 parliamentary elections.
Both the European Union and the United States have given a largely positive assessment of the legislative polls won by Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) amid opposition allegations of fraud and vote buying.
Armen Martirosian, a deputy chairman of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, insisted that in fact the Armenian authorities are taking no meaningful steps to prevent vote rigging. Martirosian argued that they remain opposed to opposition-drafted legal amendments that are meant to complicate the use of administrative resources and multiple voting by government loyalists, a practice which the Armenian opposition says was widespread in the May elections.
Martirosian also saw no government action against endemic vote buying. “This is the kind of falsifications that were applied in the last elections,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), claimed that Sarkisian is inherently disinterested in a clean presidential ballot because in that case he will fail to win a second term in office. Zurabian said Sarkisian allies’ claims that his reelection is a forgone conclusion is further proof of government plans to rig the vote. “No promises given by them should be trusted,” he said.
Tigran Urikhanian, the spokesman for the opposition-leaning Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), was less skeptical. “I want to believe in … and count on positive developments,” Urikhanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Like the Armenian opposition, the BHK challenged the legitimacy of the ruling HHK’s victory in the parliamentary elections. It withdrew from Armenia’s governing coalition shortly after the vote.