An outspoken Armenian opposition parliamentarian on Friday described as undemocratic Russia’s disputed parliamentary elections and criticized Armenia’s government for hailing their official results.
Zaruhi Postanjian of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party monitored the weekend elections along with other international observers representing the Council of Europe. Postanjian said she visited two dozen polling stations across Moscow on voting day and witnessed serious violations in most of them.
“Voting was open,” Postanjian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “People could come and vote in groups. The most interesting things occurred when they started counting ballots.”
Postanjian said that at one of the polling stations nearly half of some 600 ballots cast for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party were tied or folded together. She portrayed that as evidence of ballot stuffing.
“Commission members realized that we noticed this,” she said. “They sad, ‘Well, people came and voted with families, it’s customary here.’”
Official vote results showed United Russia winning almost half of the vote, just about enough to retain its majority in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. The Russian government insists that the vote was free and fair.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called it flawed, however, reporting serious problems in the counting process. Its election monitoring mission said the contest was slanted in favor of Putin’s party.
But Artak Davtian, a parliament deputy from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) who also took part in the OSCE observer mission, insisted on Friday that he witnessed no serious irregularities in any of the 12 Moscow precincts visited by him. He said there were only minor “technical problems” in some of them.
Davtian also dismissed Postanjian’s criticism of the Kremlin’s handling of the polls. “Frankly, I would be surprised if Ms. Postanjian expressed a different opinion because this is what she always says,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “That is her right, I respect her right to express an opinion but don’t agree with it.”
Both President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian have congratulated United Russia in separate letters to their Russian counterparts.
Postanjian scoffed at that stance, saying that the Armenian government itself has failed to hold elections widely recognized as free and fair. “Since our authorities were also not elected in legitimate ways, they showed solidarity on that front,” she said. “One illegitimate government congratulated another one.”