A new opposition alliance led by Raffi Hovannisian criticized some of the other political groups challenging the ruling Republican Party (HHK) in the upcoming local elections in Yerevan and ruled out pre-election cooperation with them on Thursday.
Armen Martirosian, the Barev Yerevan (Hello Yerevan) bloc’s top candidate for the May 5 polls, claimed that the HHK is not the only contender engaged in vote buying and other violations. Although Martirosian did not name names, he most probably referred to the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) led by Gagik Tsarukian, one of the country’s richest men.
Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party already accused the BHK of vote buying last year when it refused to join a multi-party structure tasked with trying to prevent fraud in the May 2012 parliamentary elections. That structure comprised the BHK, the Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
Martirosian said that “nothing has changed” since the 2012 polls. “We can’t say that when the Republicans buy votes that’s wrong but when another force does the same it’s fine,” he told reporters. “Zharangutyun has never been guided by such double standards.”
The BHK has repeatedly denied handing out vote bribes. The party, which was represented in the government until June 2012, also insists that Tsarukian’s high-profile charitable activities are unrelated to elections.
The idea of coordinating anti-fraud efforts is strongly supported by the HAK and Dashnaktsutyun.
HAK spokesman Arman Musinian said on Thursday that the opposition party led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian is continuing to hold “consultations” on the matter with its potential allies. “I will refrain from going into details now. But I think that on election day we will have certain mechanisms for overseeing the legality of the elections,” he told a news conference.
Musinian would not say if he thinks Barev Yerevan will be part of that arrangement. He said only that the HAK’s own uneasy relations with Hovannisian’s bloc are not an insurmountable obstacle to election-related cooperation between the two opposition forces.