Amid the continuing silence maintained by his Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Wednesday condemned as “shameful” the conduct of the weekend municipal elections in Yerevan.
Oskanian dismissed the official election results that have gave a landslide victory to President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The HHK got 56 percent of the vote, compared with the BHK’s 23 percent.
“How can I tell whether or not the BHK’s performance was good given what happened? Did the HHK win? Who knows?” Oskanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in an interview.
“Is there any person who doesn’t doubt [the official vote results?]” he said. “There were such things on that day that it would be wrong to say that those results stem from popular sympathy or antipathy. It’s shocking. I would even say that it’s something to be ashamed of.
“Who were those persons inside polling stations? Minibuses ferried people. Elderly people were guided. Witnesses say that during vote counting there were ballots marked for the HHK with [distinct] color pens.”
The BHK itself has been accused by some opposition forces of also handing out vote bribes. The party led by Gagik Tsarukian has strongly denied those allegations.
Oskanian sounded less categorical, however. “If that happened, it is equally condemnable,” he said.
Unlike the established opposition forces, the BHK has still not officially stated whether it accepts or rejects the official vote tally. The party led by Gagik Tsarukian has so far only issued a short statement saying that Armenia’s electoral system needs a “fundamental reform.”
It also remains unclear whether the BHK will take up its 17 seats in Yerevan’s 65-member municipal council that will continue to be controlled by the ruling HHK.
Expressing his personal view, Oskanian spoke out against boycotting the council. He said the BHK should use its presence in the council to keep the HHK majority under pressure and “communicate with the people.”
The official election outcome dashed BHK hopes for ending Sarkisian’s grip on the municipal administration, possibly with the help of the Armenian opposition. Oskanian said during the election campaign that the May 5 vote is an opportunity to bring about “radical changes” in the Armenian political arena.