Prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into what the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) calls evidence of serious fraud committed in five Yerevan precincts during Armenia’s December 6 constitutional referendum.
The HAK publicized last week huge discrepancies between the vote results there released by the precinct commissions and the Central Election Commission (CEC). The party’s deputy chairman, Levon Zurabian, showed copies of precinct protocols indicating that most local voters rejected President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional changes. Final CEC figures showed overwhelming “Yes” votes in those communities, however.
Zurabian portrayed this conflicting data as further proof that the Sarkisian administration rigged the referendum. He went on to submit the documents to the Office of the Prosecutor-General.
The law-enforcement agency announced on Wednesday that it has opened a criminal case in connection with the report.
Zurabian said on Thursday that the prosecutors had no choice but to at least launch formal criminal proceedings. “We presented concrete evidence of fraud,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They just couldn’t act otherwise,” he said, adding that the HAK will closely monitor the probe.
The CEC chairman, Tigran Mukuchian insisted last week that even if the official results in the five precincts were indeed falsified they could not have had a decisive impact on the overall outcome of the vote.
The HAK has tried unsuccessfully to contest that outcome in Armenia’s Constitutional Court. It has failed to collect at least 27 signatures in the 131-member parliament needed for lodging such an appeal. It hoped to present the court with more than 5 hours of video footage and 90 pages of documents purportedly proving its fraud allegations.
According to Zurabian, the opposition party on Wednesday submitted those documents to the Yerevan-based embassies of European Union member states.
Both the EU and the United States have urged the Armenian authorities to properly investigate “credible” fraud allegations made by the opposition, non-partisan observers and media. They have warned that failure to do so would compromise the legitimacy of the referendum results.
The prosecutors say that Armenian law-enforcement bodies have investigated more than 480 fraud reports and have opened 46 cases in connection with them. It is not yet known how many people, if any, have been detained or charged as a result.