The Armenian police on Wednesday pledged to spare no effort to prevent and thoroughly investigate possible irregularities in the upcoming presidential election.
In a written statement, the police said they are committed to helping to create an “electoral environment and atmosphere worthy of a democratic society.”
The statement urged Armenians to report any instance of fraud to law-enforcement authorities. It said they can also receive necessary election-related information from police officers.
The police also declared that they will guarantee the security of all eight presidential candidates and participants of their campaign gatherings.
Hovannes Sahakian, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), portrayed the statement as further proof that the authorities are serious about their repeated promises to ensure the proper conduct of the February 18 election. He said they would not hesitate to punish anyone “paying us lip service” on election day.
“We simply have no moral right to not hold these elections at a proper level,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Predictably, opposition representatives dismissed the police pledges. “They do not quite investigate any electoral violation,” said Stepan Safarian of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, whose leader Raffi Hovannisian is one of the main opposition presidential candidates.
“Maybe they are doing something in terms of ensuring people’s physical safety,” Safarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But the police are doing and, I think, can do nothing to sort out voter lists because they won’t be allowed to. They won’t be allowed to investigate vote irregularities in earnest.”
“All state bodies and the police in particular are instructed to work for the regime’s reproduction,” he claimed.
The police opened eight criminal cases in connection with fraud alleged by the opposition, media and ordinary citizens during last year’s parliamentary elections. Nobody was eventually charged with vote rigging, however.
Instead, the police controversially prosecuted an activist of the Armenian Helsinki Association who claimed to be attacked by a government loyalist at a Yerevan polling station. The activist, Arman Vezirian, himself was charged with assault.
Mikael Danielian, the chairman of the Helsinki Association, cited the case against Vezirian to brush aside the latest police assurances. “We complained to the police but the police opened a criminal case against Arman,” he said. “I don’t know what and who the police are protecting.”