By Astghik BedevianA senior member of the governing coalition predicted on Friday that 80 percent of participants of the upcoming referendum will vote for President Robert Kocharian’s constitutional amendments, provoking fresh opposition allegations of imminent vote rigging.
Galust Sahakian, who leads the parliament faction of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), said his highly upbeat forecast is based on his “analysis, meetings with voters and foreboding.” Speaking at a news conference, he also said the Armenian opposition lacks the clout to scuttle constitutional reform.
Opinion polls conducted so far have indicated a significantly lower degree of popular interest in and support for the draft amendments proposed by Kocharian and his ruling coalition comprising the HHK and two other parties. Levon Mkrtchian, the parliamentary leader of one of those parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation was more cautious in his predictions, while clearly sharing Sahakian’s optimism about the outcome of the November 27 vote.
The HHK leader’s remark was enough to draw fresh fraud charges from Victor Dallakian, a senior member of the Artarutyun bloc which is leading a concerted opposition campaign against the changes. “Such a figure can be given only by a regime which is preparing to falsify referendum results accordingly,” he told reporters.
Gauging the freedom and fairness of the referendum will not be an easy task given the fact that it will not be monitored by a large number of Western observers. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has said it will not deploy a monitoring mission because it has not received an official invitation from the Armenian government.
“This is not about forming or changing government,” Mkrtchian said, justifying the OSCE’s decision. “This is a referendum, not an election. It presupposes a large degree of public consensus.”
(Photolur photo: Galust Sahakian.)