By Emil Danielyan
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Tuesday that his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) “largely agrees” with strong criticism of the May 25 parliamentary elections made by international observers.
But he insisted that serious irregularities reported by them did not have a “substantial impact” on the official results of the vote which gave the Republicans the biggest share of seats in Armenia’s parliament.
Markarian was quoted by his press service as making the comments at a meeting with Robert Barry, head of the largest international observer mission deployed in Armenia by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In a joint report issued with the Council of Europe on May 26, it concluded that although the legislative polls were less flawed than the recent presidential election, they still fell short of democratic standards.
The observers singled out “significant violations” during the counting of ballots in many polling stations. “These included the falsification of protocols, ballot stuffing, stealing of ballots and the removal of unaccounted ballots by election commission members,” the report said.
The Western observers would not say whether those irregularities affected the election outcome. The Armenian opposition and some parties supporting President Robert Kocharian maintain that they did. The opposition Artarutyun (Justice) bloc, which placed second in the party list voting, claims to have been robbed of victory by the HHK and will appeal to the Constitutional Court.
Barry was reported to reaffirm the OSCE mission’s findings and urge the Armenian government to bring to account individuals involved in vote rigging. OSCE and Council of Europe officials have repeatedly complained about the authorities’ failure to prosecute anyone in connection with even more serious irregularities reported during this year’s presidential race.
Markarian, according to his press office, responded by saying that the HHK will propose changes to Armenia’s Electoral Code aimed at strengthening safeguards for free and fair elections. He said in particular that the Republicans are ready to increase the number of parliament seats distributed among political parties at the expense of those contested in individual constituencies. Under the existing system, 75 of the 131 members of the National Assembly are elected on the party list basis.