Opposition leaders accused Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian on Tuesday of pressuring Armenian servicemen to vote for President Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial constitutional changes in the upcoming referendum.
Ohanian urged voters to back the proposed amendments to the Armenian constitution in a video ad that was posted on the Internet on Monday. He said that transition to the parliamentary system of government sought by Sarkisian would enhance Armenia’s “defense capability.”
Levon Zurabian, a leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), said that the ad, which also features footage of military exercises, amounts to a covert order issued to military personnel. “He has no such right,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We are talking about a use of administrative resources.”
“I don’t doubt that, as always, the army will be used for vote rigging,” he charged. “That has long been the case. I’m sure that corresponding orders have already been issued to commanders of army units.”
“It’s very sad to see them engage the defense minister in these illegalities,” said Zaruhi Postanjian of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party. “Getting the army involved in this political process amounts to high treason.”
Senior representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) rejected the opposition accusations. One of them, Gagik Melikian, claimed that Ohanian is campaigning for a “Yes” vote in the referendum in his capacity as a “citizen,” rather than the country’s top military official.
Opposition groups resisting the constitutional reform already cried foul last month after Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and several other senior government officials were named by the HHK to lead the “Yes” campaign. Opposition leaders said this is a clear indication that the ruling party will abuse of its government levers to push through the amendments at any cost. The HHK deny this.