A court in Yerevan on Monday fined a government supporter 500,000 drams ($1,000) for voting in place of several other citizens during the December 6 referendum on President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional changes.
Narine Hovannisian pleaded guilty to multiple fraudulent voting during her short trial held under a so-called “accelerated procedure” that allowed the court not to question witnesses and examine the defendant’s motives. It thus remained unclear whether Hovannisian acted on her own or followed a political order.
The unemployed woman is affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force that has backed the constitutional changes. Despite claiming to be in opposition to Sarkisian, the BHK effectively stopped challenging the government after its founding leader, Gagik Tsarukian, was forced to retire from active politics almost a year ago.
Hovannisian is the third person sentenced so far in connection with fraud reported during the constitutional referendum. The two other individuals also avoided imprisonment. One of them, a local government, was convicted of attempting to bribe an opposition member of a precinct election commission in Yerevan.
According to Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General, law-enforcement authorities have so far opened 68 criminal cases and charged 32 individuals in connection with referendum fraud.
Opposition leaders and other critics of the Armenian government, who consider the referendum to have been rigged, have dismissed these fraud cases as publicity stunts. They say that neither the prosecutors nor courts have even attempted to identify their masterminds. The authorities, they claim, are only imitating anti-fraud measures in response to serious concerns voiced by the United States and the European Union in the wake of the December 6 vote.