An Armenian presidential candidate who has been on a hunger strike for the past three weeks on Monday accused election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe Monday of turning a blind eye to fraud.
Andreas Ghukasian again demanded that they leave Armenia, saying that their mission has nothing to do with democratization.
Ghukasian based the harsh criticism on an interim pre-election report that was released by the OSCE mission last week.
The report said, among other things, that Armenian officials are using state resources to campaign for President Serzh Sarkisian’s reelections and forcing public sector employees to attend his campaign rallies. It also noted a lack of an “animated debate” in the presidential race.
Ghukasian, who was never expected to make a strong showing in the election, claimed that the observers deployed by the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) glossed over much more serious problems.
“Nobody disputes the fact that the ruling party has handed out vote bribes in many elections and used coercion against public servants and local government officials. The mission is bypassing this fact which is important for election evaluation. Ignoring it means creating uncertainty and delusion in the international community,” the candidate told a news conference outside the Armenia National Academy of Sciences, where he has been camped since January 21.
Ghukasian, who managed a private radio station before his presidential run, went on to allege that OSCE/ODIHR observers already legitimized fraudulent elections held in Armenia in the past. He said their largely positive assessment of the last presidential ballot held in 2008 emboldened the Armenian authorities to use deadly force against opposition protesters.
The 42-year-old further made clear that he still has no plans to end his hunger strike despite numerous appeals from the government, opposition figures and civil society members. “The proper public reaction must be to wake up and demand rights, rather than tell a fighting figure to end the struggle,” he said.
Ghukasian began the protest to demand that President Serzh Sarkisian be barred from seeking reelection because of his alleged vote-rigging record. The candidate also demanded a halt to the OSCE’s vote-monitoring mission.