By Karine Kalantarian and Ruzanna Khachatrian
Stepan Demirchian and other opposition leaders sought on Thursday to put a brave face on their failure to get Armenia’s Constitutional Court to annul the official results of the recent presidential election. They said they remain adamant in rejecting the legitimacy of President Robert Kocharian’s reelection.
Kocharian’s allies, for their part, welcomed the court’s decision not to declare the vote invalid. But they also expressed concern at the ambiguous wording of its long verdict.
The panel of nine judges, acting on an lawsuit filed by Demirchian, ruled to “leave unchanged” the March 11 decision by the Central Election Commission (CEC) to declare Kocharian reelected. But it concluded at the same time that the official figures from some 40 polling stations across Armenia are “not credible” because of widespread ballot stuffing, deliberate miscounting of ballots and other irregularities.
“Robert Kocharian didn’t become legitimate after this decision,” Demirchian told RFE/RL. “Your are either elected or not. Kocharian was not.”
“The decision by the Constitutional Court did not make Kocharian a legitimate president,” agreed Aram Sarkisian, a top Demirchian ally and the leader of the Hanrapetutyun party.
However, political parties aligned with Kocharian insisted that the court ruling was a major defeat for the opposition. “The most important part of it is that the decision by the CEC remains unchanged,” argued Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of the Republican Party (HHK).
His comments were echoed by Vahan Hovannisian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun). “Regardless of all the violations and incredible results, the president is [deemed] elected by the overwhelming majority of votes,” he said.
Still Hovannisian deplored the Constitutional Court’s surprise call for the Armenian authorities to amend Armenia’s electoral legislation in order to hold “referendums of confidence” in the wake of disputed elections. He said its judges led by Gagik Harutiunian must ascertain whether that means they share opposition claims that Kocharian “usurped” power.
Hovannisian and other politicians from both camps agreed that the referendum recommendation was a political move aimed at placating the opposition. Vazgen Manukian, another leading member of Demirchian’s Artarutyun alliance, called it a “nice wish.”
“There can be no compromise in jurisprudence; it’s not politics,” Manukian told RFE/RL from Moscow. “The rest [of the verdict] is just lyrics.”
“Our constitution has no such concepts,” argued Vartan Poghosian, an opposition lawyer. “Therefore, what we have is not a judicial decision, but a politically motivated step with which the Constitutional Court is trying to mitigate the negative public mood.”
The court backed up its call for a referendum with Article 2 of the Armenian Constitution which declares that “government authority belongs to the people.” But other constitutional provisions stipulate that only laws and constitutional amendments can be put on a referendum in Armenia.