By Anna Saghabalian
The opposition Zharangutyun party accepted on Wednesday the official outcome of a repeat parliamentary election which its leader Raffi Hovannisian denounced as “fundamentally unfree and unfair.”
A party representative claimed that holding democratic elections in Armenia is practically impossible at present as its citizens readily sell their votes to the highest bidder.
The election held in a constituency in central Armenia on Sunday saw a candidate of the governing Republican Party (HHK) easily defeat his rivals, among them Hovannisian. The latter got only 3.4 percent of the vote, according to the district election commission.
In a statement on Monday, Hovannisian described the vote as deeply flawed, complaining about a “variety of government levers and resources being applied to voters in inappropriate and often unlawful fashion.” He at the same time congratulated the election winner, Khachik Manukian.
The official vote results were unanimously endorsed by members of Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC), including Zharangutyun representative Zoya Tadevosian. “I can not fail to agree with the election results,” explained to journalists. “You know why? As I’ve said before, all falsifications in Armenia take place outside polling stations.”
Tadevosian claimed, in particular, that the outcome of the repeat election was largely decided by vote bribes handed out by Manukian and two other pro-establishment candidates. She said election officials, most of them government loyalists, must not be held responsible for the illegal practice.
“The socioeconomic plight of our people is such that whatever we do now, we can’t ensure fair elections. It is wrong to place that burden on one party,” Tadevosian said.
Still, the Zharangutyun representative, who monitored Sunday’s vote, admitted that she personally did not witness any instance of vote buying.
Zharangutyun spokesman Hovsep Khurshudian, meanwhile, said Tadevosian’s stance reflects the party’s position and does not contradict Hovannisian’s statement. Zharangutyun accepts the election outcome, he said.
Tadevosian already highlighted the ambiguity of her party’s stance earlier this month when she voted for Garegin Azarian’s reelection as CEC chairman. The move contrasted with Hovannisian’s earlier allegations that the Armenian authorities and the Azarian-led CEC in particular stole two-thirds of votes cast for his party during the nationwide parliamentary elections held on May 12.
According to the CEC, Zharangutyun garnered about 6 percent of the vote, earning it 7 seats in the 131-member National Assembly.