Tensions between two major political parties led by Gagik Tsarukian and Raffi Hovannisian again rose on Friday as they accused each other of foul play in the upcoming mayoral elections in Yerevan.
Armen Martirosian, the mayoral candidate of Hovannisian’s Barev Yerevan (Hello Yerevan) bloc, alleged that Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the ruling Republican Party (HHK) have started buying votes “all over Yerevan.”
Davit Sanasarian, another senior member of Barev Yerevan, claimed the HHK on Thursday began offering residents of the city’s western Ajapnyak district 10,000 drams ($25) per vote and that the BHK will do the same on Friday. But neither he nor Martirosian offered any proof of the allegations.
The BHK rejected the accusations. The party chief spokesman, Tigran Urikhanian, went on a counteroffensive, saying that Hovannisian is ceding many seats in election commissions reserved for his bloc to the HHK.
“Why are their election commission slots being filled by members of the Republican Party?” Urikhanian told a news conference. “If somebody can refute this I will invite them to a public debate. We will pick facts one by one, sit down in front of media and other representatives of the public and will try to answer this question.”
Barev Yerevan rejected the BHK claims as “slander” in a statement issued later in the day. The bloc said only its members and supporters were appointed to precinct election commissions.
Urikhanian also accused Barev Yerevan of refusing to cooperate with the BHK as well as the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) in preventing possible irregularities in Sunday’s elections.
Hovannisian’s Zharangutyun party, the dominant force in Barev Yerevan, refused such cooperation ahead of last year’s parliamentary elections in protest against alleged vote buying by the BHK. It cited, among other things, Tsarukian’s controversial pre-election benevolence.
The HHK, which has long been accused by the opposition of vote buying, did not immediately react to the allegations.