By Karine Kalantarian
The People’s Party of Armenia (HZhK), a leading opposition force, accused the authorities on Thursday of planning a massive vote rigging in the upcoming local, presidential and parliamentary elections. The HZhK claimed that the formation of new electoral commissions, in which it is not represented, will serve that purpose.
The commissions were formed in accordance with controversial amendments to the Armenian election law passed by the parliament last month. The amendments empowered President Robert Kocharian to appoint one third of the members of all electoral bodies. The other members are to be named by the six partisan factions of the National Assembly.
A dozen HZhK lawmakers are formally affiliated with the largest Miasnutyun faction controlled by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK). Miasnutyun swept to a landslide victory in the previous parliamentary elections largely thanks to the huge popularity of the then HZhK leader Karen Demirchian who was assassinated in October 1999. Ensued squabbles between the two partners culminated in Miasnutyun’s effective break-up one year ago.
The Republicans, who support Kocharian, have refused to allow the HZhK to be represented in any of the commissions that will conduct the elections.
The opposition party, which is one of the biggest and most popular in Armenia, condemned the move has unfair. In a statement, the HZhK accused the HHK of “betraying” Miasnutyun’s late founders and becoming Kocharian’s “puppet.” “The HHK’s behavior gives us reason to conclude that the authorities are doing this to appoint as president the person who had already become president through fraud,” the statement says. It urges all opposition groups to join forces for “the establishment of a democratic government through free and fair elections.”
The HZhK will be a major contender in all three polls. But it has yet to decide whether its current leader, Stepan Demirchian, should run for president or endorse another opposition candidate.