The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Tuesday rejected official vote results as fraudulent but said it will take up seats in the new National Assembly and fight against President Serzh Sarkisian “on all fronts.”
HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian and his close associates sought to put a brave face on the fact that their bloc will likely have only 7 seats in the 131-member parliament. Ter-Petrosian, who topped the bloc’s electoral slate, also announced that he will cede his seat in to another senior HAK figure.
“Sadly, my assertion that every election held in Armenia is worse than the previous one has once again been confirmed,” he told thousands of supporters demonstrating in Yerevan’s Liberty Square, alleging “widespread irregularities” and “mass vote buying.”
“If the [ruling] Republican Party’s victory is really a victory, then it’s a victory over … its own country and people because thanks to that victory it received a fresh five-year term to plunder the people and the country with impunity,” he declared.
Ter-Petrosian’s chief lieutenant, Levon Zurabian, also condemned the “disgraceful” conduct of the parliamentary elections, saying that the Republican Party (HHK) won by bribing and bullying voters and ensuring multiple voting by its backers. He alleged that as many as 500,000 non-existent votes were added to the ruling party’s tally.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), approximately 1.5 million Armenians cast ballots on Sunday. The country’s main opposition groups as well as the HHK’s coalition partner, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), consider the voter turnout grossly inflated.
The BHK, the HAK and another major opposition force, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), joined forces in the run-up to the elections to try to ensure their freedom and fairness. They have still not formulated a common position on the election conduct apparently because of a delay in official BHK reaction.
The BHK leader, Gagik Tsarukian, issued a written appeal to supporters on Tuesday, thanking them for voting for his party. “Rest assured that my further political decisions will be made after discussions with my teammates,” he said.
Tsarukian did not specify whether he considers the CEC results, which put his party in second place, to be credible. Nor did he say if he will leave the governing coalition or strike a new power-sharing deal with Sarkisian.
Aram Manukian, another speaker at the HAK rally, spoke of “political consultations” going on with the BHK and Dashnaktsutyun. He also said that the HAK will appeal to the Constitutional Court against the election results.
“No failure, no setback will upset us,” Ter-Petrosian told the crowd. “If other forces join our struggle, we will readily embrace them. If they don’t, we will not complain … If we stay alone, we will still fight to the end.”
Ter-Petrosian also made clear that the HAK will not renounce its parliament mandates despite considering the vote rigged. “I want to assure you that the HAK deputies will make the most of the parliament platform and you will soon witness their vigorous activities,” he said.
“We must fight against [the authorities] on all fronts,” Zurabian said for his part. “They will get no sleep and respite in the National Assembly,” he added.
It was also confirmed that Ter-Petrosian himself will not be entering the parliament. Armenia’s first president attributed that decision to the small size of the HAK’s parliamentary faction. He also argued that “it is not appropriate for former presidents to take up seats in the parliament.”
Ter-Petrosian stressed that this does not mean he is retiring from the political arena. “I will fight as long as I am physically able to and as long as there is popular demand for my service,” he said.