The Armenian opposition on Tuesday accused the Republican (HHK), Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Dashnaktsutyun parties of obstructing vote recounts in many polling stations where it claims to have witnessed serious fraud during Sunday’s constitutional referendum.
Armenian law gives election commissions only three days to recount, at the request of their members alleging vote rigging, ballots cast in their respective precincts.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Zharangutyun (Heritage), the two opposition parties represented in those commissions, have demanded recounts in several dozen precincts in and outside Yerevan. They say that referendum results there were falsified through ballot box stuffing or deliberate miscounting of votes.
It emerged that election officials representing the ruling HHK, the BHK and Dashnaktsutyun have lodged a much larger number of recount applications in neighboring precincts. This despite the fact that all three parties insist that the referendum was free and fair. Their electoral representatives in Yerevan declined to comment on these surprise moves.
The corresponding district election commissions, each of them overseeing several precincts, will thus struggle to carry out all requested recounts within the three-day period. In all cases monitored by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), they decided to process the HHK, BHK and Dashnaktsutyun applications first, meaning that they may well fail to verify the referendum results in the trouble spots cited by the opposition.
The sequence of the recounts was purportedly decided by card draws required by the Electoral Code. However, HAK and Zharangutyun representatives were apparently absent from such draws. They said that they were not informed about the procedures beforehand.
“The purpose of this is clear: to block recounts in precincts where there were real falsifications,” charged Hovsep Ghazarian, a member of Zharangutyun’s governing board.
“I see a deliberate effort,” agreed Karen Tovmasian, an HAK activist. “Representatives of the Republican Party and its allies sitting on the commissions have received instructions to submit numerous recount demands so that recounts in precincts that saw serious violations have lowest priority.”
Tovmasian is a member of the electoral commission in a precinct in Yerevan’s Arabkir administrative district where HAK alleged blatant fraud. The opposition party has accused the commission’s pro-government chairman, Kolya Mosinian, of illegally adding more than 800 “Yes” votes for President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional changes. It claims that only 160 or so local voters backed the changes.
The HAK has alleged similar violations in four precincts that are part of an electoral district in the city’s Nor Nork suburb. The local district commission has decided to recount ballots cast there only after conducting recounts in eight other precincts demanded by the ruling HHK. Only one of those recounts was completed by Tuesday afternoon, suggesting that the commission will hardly act on the HAK demands before the expiry of the legal deadline.
The commission chairman denied stalling for time. “The commission is doing its job and you should not dance to everyone’s tune,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
In at least two electoral districts located in the city’s western Malatia-Sebastia suburb, post-referendum applications submitted by the HHK, the BHK and Dashnaktsutyun likewise greatly outnumbered those of the HAK and Zharangutyun. And the local commissions gave precedence to the recounts sought by the proponents of the constitutional reform.