Very high voter turnout and huge margins of President Serzh Sarkisian’s victory registered by election bodies in many communities across Armenia are not an indication of fraud in last month’s presidential ballot, a senior pro-government lawmaker said on Monday.
Artak Davtian of the ruling Republican Party (HHK) reacted to the latest report by election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that questioned the credibility of official votes results.
In the report released on Saturday, the OSCE’s vote-monitoring mission in Armenia expressed concern at “a correlation between very high turnout and the number of votes for the incumbent.” It described as “implausibly high” a turnout of more than 80 percent that was recorded in 144 precincts, compared with the official nationwide rate of 60 percent. Sarkisian got over 80 percent of votes cast in the vast majority of those mostly rural communities, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).
The OSCE mission also cited CEC data showing that turnout exceeded 70 percent in over 300 other polling stations across the country. Sarkisian’s performance there was also significantly better than his national vote tally of 58.6 percent reported by the CEC.
Davtian insisted that there is nothing suspicious about these figures, dismissing opposition claims that the OSCE report gave more weight to allegations of vote rigging.
“In a small community, where most people know each other, are related to each other or interconnected in many other ways … it is only natural that that community demonstrates a nearly unanimous attitude to one or another candidate,” he said during a public debate with Stepan Safarian, a close associate of Raffi Hovannisian, the main opposition candidate.
Safarian strongly disagreed. “Why do you think that small communities are mainly populated by supporters of the government candidate and are kind of ghettos with a completely different environment?” he said. “The real situation there is totally different.”
Safarian also disputed Davtian’s claim that the total number of voters in the 144 precincts in question is so small that they could not have decided the outcome of the presidential contest. He claimed that Hovannisian would have won had the official returns from those precincts been deducted from Sarkisian’s tally.
Davtian further argued that the OSCE observers stand by their earlier conclusion that voting in the presidential election was calm and “well-administered.” “That good organization doesn’t mean that there were no violations or shortcomings,” he said.
“What we have is a fait accompli,” added the HHK parliamentarian. “We have what we have as a result of the elections.”