Irregularities reported during the December 6 referendum in Armenia did not affect its official results indicating popular approval of President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional changes, the ruling Republican Party (HHK) insisted on Friday.
HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov downplayed in that regard a criminal investigation into serious fraud in five polling stations in Yerevan that has been alleged by the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
The Office of the Prosecutor-General launched the inquiry on Wednesday after receiving from the HAK purported evidence of forged vote protocols in those precincts. It has not detained or charged anyone yet.
“We’ve already said that there were vote irregularities, there were problems,” Sharmazanov told reporters. But he said they were not serious and widespread enough to determine the outcome of the referendum.
The HAK, other opposition parties and civic groups that monitored the vote maintain, however, that it was rigged by the authorities.
HAK spokesman Aram Musinian claimed on Friday that the fraud was not confined to protocol forgery. “The authorities have reverted to their old methods: violence and ballot stuffing,” he said.
The constitutional changes envisage Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government after Sarkisian completes his second and final term in 2018. The next president of the republic will be a largely ceremonial figure elected by the Armenian parliament, rather than popular vote.
The bulk of the sweeping presidential powers will be transferred to the prime minister and their cabinet to be formed as a result of the next parliamentary elections due in 2017.
Sharmazanov claimed that the ruling party is committed to ensuring the proper conduct of those polls. “That is why we are going to adopt a new Electoral Code by June 1,” he said. “We are ready to discuss with all political forces mechanisms for limiting multiple voting and other violations and practically precluding fraud.”