Two residents of an Armenian village have been arrested on charges of attempting to falsify the results of a local mayoral election, law-enforcement authorities said on Tuesday.
One of the detainees is a brother of Kyarim Khudoyan, who ran in the election held on December 26 in Charchakis, a village in the central Aragatsotn region mostly populated by Yezidis.
Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) claimed that Kyazim Khudoyan burst into the local polling station with several loyalists and stole the ballots cast after the vote count showed that his brother was defeated by a rival candidate. In a written statement, the SIS said they assaulted a police officer who tried to stop the theft.
The statement added Khudoyan has been charged with electoral fraud and assault. Both accusations carry up to five years in prison.
Assault charges have also been brought against two Charchakis women that supported the defeated candidate. One of them, Khatun Nadoyan, has been remanded in pre-trial custody, according to the SIS.
The law-enforcement agency subordinated to state prosecutors said it is now trying to track down “the other participants of the crime.” The SIS statement did not say whether arrested suspects have pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
Criminal cases stemming from election-related violations are uncommon in Armenia, despite a culture of vote rigging, usually benefiting government-backed candidates, that has taken hold in the country since the early 1990s. Law-enforcement bodies opened more than 20 such cases following a disputed presidential election held in February 2008.
The vast majority of the individuals arrested and prosecuted at the time were proxies of Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition presidential candidate. One of them, Harutiun Urutian, was subsequently sentenced to six years in prison for violent conduct, in what was the harshest election-related punishment in Armenia’s history.
Two pro-government election officials were arrested and received much shorter prison sentences in the wake of the May 2009 municipal elections in Yerevan. They both were set free immediately after a general amnesty declared by the authorities in June 2009.