A coalition of four Armenian civic organizations that deployed the largest monitoring team during Armenia’s constitutional referendum on Monday rejected as fraudulent its official results showing a “Yes” vote for President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional changes.
According to the preliminary results released by the Central Election Commission (CEC), just over half of the country’s 2.5 million eligible voters voted in the referendum and 63.4 percent of them backed Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system envisaged by the amendments. The voter turnout registered by the CEC was just enough to make the ballot valid.
Opposition groups campaigning against the constitutional reform dismissed the official figures, accusing the Armenian authorities of rigging Sunday’s vote. The Citizen Observer coalition, which deployed about 1,000 monitors in polling stations across the country, echoed those allegations as it presented its preliminary findings to the media.
The mission said its observers reported 941 instances of electoral violations during the voting and counting of ballots. “Most of them were not merely procedural violations commonplace in previous ballots but quite serious and substantive irregularities,” said one of its leaders, Vartine Grigorian.
Another Citizen Observer leader, Tigran Yegorian, claimed that those irregularities included ballot box stuffing, theft and miscounting of ballots, multiple voting by presumably bribed voters and intimidation of observers by election officials and other government loyalists.
“I have never seen such pressure on our observers before. It was unprecedented,” said Artur Sakunts, a Vanadzor-based human rights campaigner whose Helsinki Citizens Assembly is also part of the Citizen Observer.
Sakunts alleged that the authorities resorted to “an arsenal of fraud and abuses that wasn’t used even in the 2013 presidential election.” He also said that the Citizen Observer has video evidence of some of the alleged falsifications.
Tigran Mukuchian, the pro-government head of the CEC, dismissed the fraud claims as “political evaluations” that need to be backed up by documentary evidence. He challenged the opposition and civic groups to submit concrete facts to the CEC or its territorial divisions.
“There may be different evaluations but they must first come up with a factual basis,” Mukuchian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “If they present it within legally defined time frames, we will consider it and make legally binding decisions.”