The opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party on Wednesday questioned the governing Prosperous Armenia Party’s stated commitment to fighting against electoral fraud jointly with the country’s three main opposition groups.
Zharangutyun’s deputy chairman, Ruben Hakobian, challenged Prosperous Armenia (BHK) leader Gagik Tsarukian to personally sign a declaration that announced the establishment of a joint anti-fraud task force.
Zharangutyun, the BHK as well as the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) reached an agreement to set up the Inter-Party Center for Public Oversight of the Elections on April 4. It was signed by senior representatives of the four political forces, including Hakobian.
Zharangutyun demanded afterwards that the document also be signed by their top leaders. Hakobian reaffirmed this precondition as the party representatives met to discuss details of the center’s activities. He claimed that the BHK and the two other members of Armenia’s governing coalition are already engaged in vote buying and other illegal practices.
The HAK and Dashnaktsutyun representatives attending the meeting criticized the demand. Still, they said they are ready to go along with it.
“Do you need [HAK leader Levon] Ter-Petrosian’s signature? I can bring it,” the HAK’s Levon Zurbaian told Hakobian.
Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who represented the BHK in the talks, promised to convey the demand to Tsarukian, while dismissing the Zharangutyun concerns. “Prosperous Armenia will invest human and technical resources in the fight against fraud that will surprise you,” Oskanian told Hakobian. “I want you to realize the seriousness of Prosperous Armenia.”
Hakobian was unconvinced, however, walking out of the meeting. The discussion continued in his absence. The three remaining participants agreed on most of the practical modalities of the task force’s work that were proposed by Dashnaktsutyun’s Armen Rustamian. They also decided to hold follow-up talks next week.
“I want to appeal to our colleagues from Zharangutyun,” said Zurabian. “We have an unprecedented situation. Political forces that have for years been at loggerheads and traded recriminations can now put that aside and do something that will inspire our people and society.”