New CEC Chairman
By Harry Tamrazian, Ruzanna Khachatrian and Gayane Danielian
After losing a court battle in the Constitutional Court on July 7, Armenia's main opposition alliance in the newly elected parliament wants to continue its fight in the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights. In a press conference today in Yerevan, the Artarutiun (Justice) parliamentary bloc announced that they have started paperwork for presenting the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Armenia's highest court turned down on July 7 Artarutiun's appeal to invalidate the outcome of the May 25 parliamentary election for the 75 seats allocated under the proportional system. The Constitutional Court has ruled to uphold the official results released by the Central Election Commission on May 30, according to which only 14 percent of registered voters cast their ballots for Artarutiun.
However, the Constitutional Court ruling supported Artarutiun's allegations of widespread irregularities during the election process, lack of transparency in the election campaign financing, and major shortcomings in the electoral system.
The main representative of Artaruriun's interests in the Constitutional Court, Artak Zeinalian told reporters on July 9 that the court's ruling to uphold the May 30 decision of the Central Electoral Commission on the results of the parliamentary elections was "rather political."
Another representative of the opposition in the court case against CEC, outspoken parliament deputy Arshak Sadoyan, said that the facts and arguments presented in the court were sufficient enough to invalidate the parliamentary election results. He claimed that according to opposition's own calculations almost 450,000 ballots cast for Artarutiun were given to other parties.
According to the CEC final results, the Republican Party received 23 percent of the vote. The other two pro-presidential parties Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) and Dashnaksutiun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) received 12.5 and 11.5 percent respectively of party list vote.
On July 8, Armenian President Robert Kocharian reappointed two members of the current CEC to serve a further four years. Kocharian also proposed one new member, Garik Azarian, to replace CEC chairman Artak Sahradian. According to Armenian Electoral Code, the president can appoint three members of CEC and each parliamentary faction can have one representative in the CEC.
The existing CEC should be dissolved and a new CEC formed on 40th day after the parliamentary elections. As was widely expected, in its first session today the newly formed Central Election Commission has elected presidential appointee Garik Azarian as its new chairman. Two members of the newly formed CEC representing Artarutiun and National Unity, the two opposition factions in the parliament, voted against the new chairman, after he declined to evaluate May 25 poll.
CEC Chairman Artak Sahradian, who was heavily criticized by the opposition and by some members of pro-government parties in the new parliament, announced today that he is stepping down.