The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) insisted on Monday that it has received a popular mandate to govern Yerevan for another four years amid allegations of vote rigging made by the country’s main established opposition forces.
Preliminary full results of Sunday’s municipal elections released by the Central Election Commission (CEC) in the morning confirmed the HHK’s landslide victory, giving it almost 56 percent of the vote and 42 seats in Yerevan’s 65-member municipal council. The comfortable majority will enable the party to reappoint Taron Markarian, the city’s incumbent Republican mayor.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman, said the ruling party expected the victory. “All we can do now is to ensure that the Yerevan municipality led by Taron Markarian performs better in order to live up to the expectations of city residents,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“The overwhelming majority of our capital’s population voted for a political team and candidate that can best solve issues of paving, lighting and cleaning up streets and collecting garbage,” said Hovannes Sahakian, another senior HHK figure.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the HHK’s former coalition partner, finished second with 23 percent of the vote, followed by the Barev Yerevan opposition bloc (8 percent).
The two other opposition contenders -- the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Armenian National Congress (HAK) -- failed to clear the 6 percent vote threshold for being represented in the Yerevan council. All three opposition forces rejected the official vote tally as fraudulent.
“There was no progress [in the conduct of the elections,]” said Barev Yerevan spokesman Davit Sanasarian. “On the contrary, I would say that the municipal elections took place in a worse atmosphere and conditions than the [February 18] presidential election.”
“While during the presidential election the authorities … were a bit complacent, this time they fought hard for every vote and managed to impose yet another humiliating election result on Armenia’s citizens by getting people out of their homes, directing, threatening and bribing them,” Sanasarian charged. He said Barev Yerevan will appeal against the official results in many electoral precincts.
The HAK, which denounced the vote as “another crime against democracy” shortly after the closure of polls late on Sunday, also announced plans to ask courts to invalidate the official outcome. Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, said the authorities deliberately barred the opposition party led by Levon Ter-Petrosian from entering the municipal council in order to spare Markarian more corruption allegations. The HAK accused the mayor of corrupt practices throughout the election campaign.
“The regime realized that we would turn every session of the Council of Elders into a noisy event and their corrupt deals would be in danger. In order to avoid such a nightmare they made a political decision not to let the HAK enter the council,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Dashnaktsutyun also refused to recognize the legitimacy of the HHK’s victory in Yerevan. In a written statement, the opposition party attributed it to the “merger of the state and the ruling party, unlimited use of administrative resources and widespread vote buying.”
“The government monopoly has become more rigid,” read the statement. “They are now able to govern Yerevan and the country single-handedly. We will wait and see the results, even though they are predictable for us.”
“Tens or hundreds of thousands of Yerevan residents took vote bribes,” Aghvan Vartanian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, said in separate comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Republicans brushed aside the opposition claims, with Sahakian saying that the opposition is looking for excuses to justify its crushing defeat. “Losing an election doesn’t mean that there were serious violations in the electoral process,” he said.
The CEC’s pro-government chairman, Tigran Mukuchian, also denied those allegations, acknowledging only “isolated cases” of fraud. “That is their subjective view and conclusion,” Mukuchian said, referring to the opposition.
Gagik Tsarukian’s BHK, meanwhile, was very cautious in its initial reaction to the official election results. “The BHK’s campaign headquarters will analyze the accumulated information and facts for the next few days,” the party said in a statement. “The May 5 municipal elections once again showed that the electoral mechanism in our country needs a fundamental reform.”