The second most important party in Armenia’s governing coalition said on Tuesday that it is unhappy with the conduct of the May 31 mayoral elections in Yerevan but will not challenge its official results.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of businessman Gagik Tsarukian won 22.65 percent of the vote and 17 seats in the 65-member municipal council. President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (BHK) fared much better, gaining 35 seats that allowed it to single-handedly reinstall incumbent Mayor Gagik Beglarian.
“Naturally, we too are not satisfied with the quality of the election,” Naira Zohrabian, a senior BHK lawmaker, told RFE/RL. “Once again there was no breakthrough in our electoral culture.”
Like the country’s main opposition parties, Zohrabian singled out vote buying as the most serious problem that marred the elections. “When the voter takes money and goes to the polls you are faced with a psychological deadlock,” she said.
Both the HHK and BHK have been accused by opposition parties of handing out vote bribes on election day. The Republicans have denied engaging in the illegal practice.
Zohrabian dismissed speculation that her party has delayed its assessment of the election conduct in the hope of getting Beglarian to place some of the city’s ten administrative districts under BHK control. She said the two parties have not held any power-sharing negotiations “for a single day, hour or even minute.”
Only one of the ten district mayors in Yerevan is affiliated with the BHK. Tsarukian’s party also holds four ministerial portfolios in the Armenian government and boasts the second largest faction in parliament.
In a related development, Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) announced on Tuesday the arrest of a fourth person as part of its ongoing investigation into reports of election fraud. The SIS said David Sargsian, a member of a precinct election commission in the city’s Malatia-Sebastia district, is suspected of stuffing fake ballots into the ballot box. Two other local election officials and a Malatia-Sebastia resident were arrested on similar charges last week.
Malatia-Sebastia was the scene of the largest number of irregularities that were reported by the Armenian opposition, mass media and independent observers on election day. The reports led to the recounting of ballots cast in about a dozen local precincts. Voting in three of those precincts was annulled as a result.