President Serzh Sarkisian dismissed on Monday opposition concerns about the accuracy of Armenia’s official vote registers, saying that the authorities have not inflated them to rig the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Sarkisian denied any contradiction between recent years’ shrinkage of the country’s population and a sizable increase in the number of eligible voters shown by police data.
“Being absent from the country is not sufficient grounds from removing people from the voter lists, and this is the reason why the number of citizens on those lists is growing. But being included on the list does necessarily not mean taking part in elections,” he said at a meeting with university students held in the resort town of Tsaghkadzor.
Opposition groups and the Armenian National Congress (HAK) in particular claim that the authorities are planning to have bribed citizens cast fraudulent ballots marked for Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) in place of hundreds of thousands of Armenian nationals living abroad. HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian has said that there are currently as many as 700,000 absent voters.
In a joint letter to Armenian police chief Vladimir Gasparian sent late last week, the HAK, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun party demanded that the police publicize those voters’ names. “By failing to grant this request, you would call into question the legitimacy of the forthcoming elections and deal a serious blow to Armenia’s international reputation,” they said.
Police officials insist that they have no information about the absent voters. Gasparian has ruled out the possibility of fraudulent voting on their behalf.
Sarkisian gave similar assurances in Tsaghkadzor. “I think that all those who talk about a [vote rigging] intent must wait until after the elections and see,” he said. “We have taken unprecedented steps. We have posted the voter lists on the Internet. What’s the problem?”
“Those who suspect [fraud,] should pinpoint those lists and help us correct them,” he added.
The president also insisted that Armenia’s Electoral Code amended last year enables the opposition to prevent voter list manipulation and other irregularities. He said that various-level election commissions, in which Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun have seats, now have to make decisions by consensus.