Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on Monday threatened to boycott Yerevan’s new municipal assembly if it is formed as a result of fraudulent elections next month.
The BHK, which boasts the second largest faction in the Armenian parliament, will be among the key contenders in the municipal polls scheduled for May 5. It makes no secret of its hopes to win the largest number of seats in the Council of Elders and thus be in a position to name Yerevan’s next mayor.
“It would be very naïve if I said now that we trust in the authorities’ assurances,” said Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK representative. “The authorities will definitely make use of their levers. We are already receiving many reports [of election-related irregularities] that are investigated by our campaign officials.”
“If the elections are not free and fair, Prosperous Armenia will not participate in the work of an illegitimately formed Yerevan council,” Zohrabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The BHK finished second in the previous Yerevan elections held in May 2009 and won by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). It was part of Sarkisian’s coalition government at the time. The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) came in third but refused to take up its seats in the council, alleging widespread fraud.
“We have no boycott plans this time around. A boycott would not make sense,” Levon Zurabian, a leading HAK member, said on Monday.
The two other major opposition groups, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party have likewise indicated that they will not boycott the Yerevan councils in case of winning seats there.
All four forces opposed to the ruling HHK have called for joint efforts to prevent possible government attempts to rig the upcoming ballot. According to Zohrabian, the youth wings of the BHK, the HAK and Dashnaktsutyun are now trying to form joint teams tasked with overseeing the voting process.
Zharangutyun appears to remain distrustful of the BHK’s stated interest in the freedom and fairness of the May 5 elections. It has previously accused Tsarukian’s party of buying votes through supposedly apolitical charitable work financed by the BHK leader.
“The party does not engage in benevolence,” insisted Zohrabian. “Social programs are implemented by the Gagik Tsarukian Benevolent Fund and not in the pre-election period. We don’t violate the law.” She said Tsarukian’s charity will suspend its high-profile activities during the election campaign.