By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s Constitutional Court on Friday began hearings on appeals against the official results of the May 12 parliamentary elections which have been filed by four opposition groups alleging large-scale fraud.
Three of them, the Hanrapetutyun and Nor Zhamanakner parties and the Impeachment bloc, are demanding that the court invalidate the official figures and order a rerun of voting held under the system of proportional representation. The fourth applicant, the Orinats Yerkir Party of former parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian, is seeking recounting of ballots in 10 percent of some 2,000 polling stations across Armenia.
Hovannes Markarian, who made the party’s case during the first court hearing, said Orinats Yerkir will demand a full election re-run if the recount exposes violations and number discrepancies that were serious enough to affect the overall result.
“In any case, elections must be deemed null and void in those precincts where fraud had a significant impact on the outcome,” he said.
According to the government-controlled Central Election Commission (CEC), Orinats Yerkir won about 7 percent of votes cast under the proportional system, earning it 8 seats in the 131-member National Assembly.
The three other opposition groups challenging the credibility of the CEC tally fared even worse, failing to win a single parliament seat. In their opening statements in the court, their representatives accused the three main pro-government parties that won the vast majority of parliament seats of resorting to serious fraud both during the election campaign on voting day. They promised to submit evidence of the alleged fraud during the next court sessions.
Under Armenian law, the Constitutional Court has to deliver a verdict on the appeals by June 10. The panel of nine judges has rejected opposition appeals against past Armenian elections criticized as undemocratic by Western monitors. Analysts say it is therefore unlikely to invalidate the latest polls, especially considering their largely positive assessment by the West.
The leaders of Hanrapetutyun, Impeachment, and Nor Zhamanakner admit that their chances of winning the case are slim. But they hope that the court action will have a public resonance and give a new momentum to their ongoing campaign of anti-government demonstrations.
The three groups again failed to pull a large crowd as they held a weekly rally in Yerevan on Friday. Only about 1,000 people turned out to attend it.