Armenian opposition parties should work harder and fight for their votes more aggressively if they are to do better in future elections, John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, said on Friday.
Heffern at the same time the stressed the importance of the proper conduct of Armenian elections.
“The way for the opposition to be successful is for the playing field to be leveled, for all parties to play by the same rules and have access to the press -- and there has been some progress in that area -- for the elections to be free and fair and for the ballots to be counted appropriately and accurately,” he told reporters. “And that requires that any credible reports of violations of the Electoral Code be investigated and prosecuted if they are found to be true.”
“It requires that the opposition parties be aggressive, be assertive and demonstrate that they are working hard to win the votes of the Armenian people. So the opposition parties have responsibility too,” added Heffern.
“By aggressive I just mean active,” clarified the diplomat. “I don’t mean aggressive in a non-peaceful sense. I mean peacefully and actively do their job, organize their people, get out the vote, and try to win the elections.”
Asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) which Armenian opposition groups, if any, fit the bill, he said, “The U.S. government, Armenia’s international partners don’t support or oppose any party. What we are trying to promote is a level playing field so that all the parties, all the candidates, all the points of view have equal and fair treatment.”
The United States has closely monitored all major Armenian elections, including the May 5 municipal polls in Yerevan. Heffern met with at least two opposition leaders, Levon Ter-Petrosian and Raffi Hovannisian, in the run-up to those polls.
Ter-Petrosian’s and Hovannisian’s parties have rejected their official results as fraudulent. Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK) claims that changing the government through elections has become practically impossible.