By Armen Zakarian and Harry Tamrazian
The Constitutional Court started today hearings on the lawsuit filed by Armenia’s main opposition block Artarutiun (Justice). The Armenian main opposition, which won 14 percent of party seats, challenged the results of the May 25 parliamentary elections. Armenia’s main opposition alliance refuses to recognize the official results claiming that it won the election. Artarutiun now demands to annul the official results of last month’s disputed elections of 75 party seats.
In the opening remarks of the court hearing, opposition representatives presented the case with long list of violation of electoral procedures, voting irregularities as well as violation of campaign financing.
The representative of Central Election Commission, the deputy minister of Justice Gagik Mukuchian tried to derail the hearing by putting forward a countermotion. The CEC representative cited the Armenian law, which doesn’t permit the members of the parliament to file a lawsuit challenging the election results.
Gagik Mukuchian said that the Court should dismiss the case, since all representatives of opposition were members of the parliament at the time when they have filed a lawsuit. But Armenia’s highest Court turned down the motion, arguing that the opposition representatives filed a lawsuit not as the members of the parliament but as the party members.
The representative of the opposition in the Constitutional Court Artak Zeinalian cited irregularities during election campaign, especially in the campaign financing. Opposition claims that all three pro-government parties, including Hanrapetakan and Orinats Yerkir have violated election law on campaign financing by significantly exceeding the spending limits allowed by the Armenian electoral code. The opposition representative also demanded to include in the case the critical comments made by two members of CEC about the election results. Orinats Yerkir representative in CEC challenged the official results in his comments, saying that 80 thousand ballots, which were in favor of his party disappeared from the ballot boxes.
Today the opposition also challenged CEC’s decision not to register former presidential candidate Aram Karapetian, who has also joined Artarutiun after the presidential elections. According to Artak Zeinalian, CEC decision had an adverse impact on the election results of the opposition alliance Artarutiun, because Aram Karapetian had many supporters. According to Zeinalian almost 40 thousand people that voted for Aram Karapetian could also vote for Artarutiun during parliamentary vote. Aram Karapetian was included in the party list of opposition alliance but later CEC refused to register him saying that he failed to provide proper documentation, which could prove that he was residing in Armenia during last five years.
The Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) was declared the winner of the elections with about 24 percent of the vote. However, the legitimacy of the HHK victory was challenged not only by the opposition but also other parties supporting President Robert Kocharian. Among them were the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Orinats Yerkir Party with which the Republicans formed a coalition government earlier this month.
OSCE and Council of Europe observers who were monitoring May 25 poll also reported numerous irregularities, including ballot box stuffing. The Armenian authorities also admit vote irregularities but insist that those were not significant enough to affect the outcome of the parliamentary vote.