By Ruzanna Stepanian
Leaders of Armenia’s governing coalition insisted on Monday that their victory in the constitutional referendum was not the result of massive vote rigging, downplaying irregularities reported by local and foreign observers.
“There may have been problems in one or two places, but the referendum has been a success,” said Mher Shahgeldian, a senior lawmaker who has nominally managed the “Yes” campaign of the three political parties represented in President Robert Kocharian’s government.
“I think it was impossible to hold a flawless election in Armenia,” said deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian. “The published figures show that even considering all reports of violations, the referendum results can not be called into question in any way.”
Speaking to reporters, both men dismissed suggestions that the voter turnout reported by the Central Election Commission is grossly inflated because it sharply contrasted with a striking lack of voters in polling station across Armenia.
“I disagree with the view that voters were passive,” said Shahgeldian. “In many places they had to form lines to cast their ballots.”
But Shahgeldian, who heads the Armenian parliament’s committee on defense and security, pointedly stopped short of describing the vote as free and fair. He pledged that the “Yes” camp will thoroughly look into the findings of Council of Europe observers, while stressing that the latter did not witness serious irregularities in the majority of some 150 precincts visited by them.
“I can state at this point that the turnout and the percentage of ‘yes’ votes was high,” he said.