By Astghik Bedevian and Ruzanna Stepanian
The two main candidates in a key local election in Yerevan on Friday accused each other of planning to falsify vote results.
Ararat Zurabian, an opposition leader recently released from jail, is challenging the incumbent mayor of the city’s central Kentron district, Gagik Beglarian, in what promises to be a tense election scheduled for Sunday. Armenia’s main opposition alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has declared Zurabian’s victory its most immediate political objective.
Beglarian, who is affiliated with the governing Republican Party (HHK), is seen as the favorite to win the vote not least because of his party’s administrative levers and financial resources. He claimed that the Armenian opposition and Zurabian in particular are intent on rigging the vote.
“Vote rigging has become the main opposition weapon,” Beglarian told RFE/RL. “We all know that the entire nation must fight against vote rigging.”
“For some unknown reason, they say that only government representatives do falsifications,” he complained. “Opposition representatives also engage in fraud.”
Zurabian laughed off the allegations, arguing that the opposition can barely influence the electoral process because all but one seats in election commissions in Kentron are controlled by HHK members and other government loyalists. He said that it is Beglarian who will rely on a “whole system of falsifications” on election day.
“Be certain that all kinds of vote falsifications that were observed during the presidential election and all other elections will be repeated in Kentron,” Zurabian told a news conference. “To talk about opposition falsifications means to prepare ground for falsifications and try to blame them on the opposition,” he said.
Kentron is one of the few Armenian communities where Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK), of which Zurabian is a senior member, has fielded a candidate. Earlier this month a HAK candidate was narrowly defeated by the pro-government incumbent in another Yerevan district, Kanaker-Zeytun. The candidate, Manuel Gasparian, refused to concede defeat, alleging massive fraud.
(Photolur photo: Gagik Beglarian.)