By Hrach Melkumian and Karine Kalantarian
The Armenian opposition rallied on Tuesday several thousand supporters in Yerevan in a last-ditch attempt to force the Constitutional Court to scrap the results of last month’s disputed presidential election.
The court, meanwhile, wound up two-week hearings on an appeal filed by defeated presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian and is legally bound to announce its verdict on Wednesday. Demirchian’s opposition allies warned that its chairman Gagik Harutiunian and eight other justices will share responsibility for alleged electoral fraud if they uphold the official results of the vote which gave victory to incumbent President Robert Kocharian.
“Either the presidential election will be annulled or the Constitutional Court will take an illegal political decision that will make its members accomplices in the illegal seizure of power,” said Albert Bazeyan, an outspoken leader of the opposition Artarutyun (Justice) alliance. Bazeyan and other speakers renewed their allegations that the two-round election was rigged by the authorities.
Demirchian, however, denied that the demonstration, the latest in a series of his anti-government protests, was called to pressurize the court into calling a fresh presidential election. “This should not be considered as pressure on the Constitutional Court,” he told RFE/RL. “The people are simply expressing their views.”
Demirchian again stressed that he will not concede defeat if the court, as is widely anticipated, certifies the legitimacy of Kocharian’s reelection. One of his top allies, Aram Karapetian, signaled that the opposition is now turning its attention to next month’s parliamentary elections.
“We are going to win the parliamentary elections,” Karapetian told the crowd. “We must get a majority there.”
The peaceful rally came as lawyers representing Demirchian and the Central Election Commission (CEC) made their final cases in the Constitutional Court. Each side accused the other of manipulating facts.
Deputy Minister of Justice Tigran Mukuchian reiterated the CEC’s position that irregularities registered during the February 19 and March 5 rounds of the election are not significant enough to declare the polls invalid. “We believe that those shortcomings, mistakes and omissions were not on the scale that could have any impact on the outcome of the election,” Mukuchian said in his concluding remarks.
The Demirchian camp again claimed the opposite. “The presidential elections of 2003 were prepared and held amid mass irregularities and falsifications pre-planned by the authorities and election commissions,” charged Victor Dallakian, chairman of the Armenian parliament’s committee on legal affairs. He added that a court ruling to invalidate the vote results would “immortalize” Harutiunian.