The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Monday stood by its fraud allegations and demanded that the Central Election Commission (CEC) annul the official results of the weekend referendum on sweeping amendments to Armenia’s constitution.
The HAK pledged to submit compelling evidence of “mass falsifications” to the CEC as it again rallied supporters in Yerevan. The party led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian also made clear that it will not join ongoing nonstop protests staged by more radical opposition groups.
“We have so much evidence that it would be enough to invalidate several referendums,” the HAK’s deputy chairman, Levon Zurabian, told the crowd that gathered in Liberty Square.
Zurabian dismissed as grossly inflated the CEC’s claim that almost 1.3 Armenians took part in the referendum and over 63 percent of them voted for the amendments proposed by President Serzh Sarkisian. He claimed that only 800,000 voters cast ballots on Sunday and that 600,000 of them voted against the amendments envisaging Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government.
“The ‘No’ campaign has won in all parts of the country,” declared another senior HAK figure, Aram Manukian. He said that HAK proxies witnessed particularly blatant fraud during the counting of ballots. The opposition party will therefore demand vote recounts in many polling stations, added Manukian.
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) rejected the allegations, challenging the HAK to prove them with concrete facts. “If [Zurabian] doesn’t prove that there were half a million non-existent ‘Yes’ votes, then he is a political liar,” said HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov.
“For all reported shortcomings, it was a legitimate choice of the people,” Sharmazanov told reporters. “Sixty-three percent of voters said ‘Yes’ to the parliamentary system and we will move to the parliamentary republic.”
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), a nominally opposition party strongly supporting the constitutional changes, also insisted that the referendum was not rigged. “We don’t have such evidence. Those who claim the opposite don’t have it either,” said Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader.
In his speech, Zurabian sought to put a brave face on the HAK’s and its allies’ failure to thwart a reform which they believe would enable Sarkisian to extend his rule. He said the scale of vote rigging demonstrated that Sarkisian and his party do not enjoy popular support.
“This is the last vote rigged by Serzh Sarkisian’s regime,” claimed Zurabian. “We will win next the next elections, whether they are regular or pre-term.”
The HAK has failed to attract large crowds to its referendum rallies held so far. This might explain why Ter-Petrosian has not addressed or attended any of those gatherings. Attendance at the nonstop protests launched by the more radical New Armenia Public Salvation Front on December 1 has been even poorer.
Zurabian said that the HAK still has no plans to join those protests. “I still think that political conditions are not ripe for doing that,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).