An Armenian opposition alliance on Sunday accused the authorities of transporting scores of residents of villages and small towns to Yerevan to illegally vote for President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional changes in local precincts.
The No Front coalition campaigning against the changes alleged such fraud several hours before the closure of the polls in Armenia’s constitutional referendum. The allegations seemed consistent with some media reports.
Under Armenian law, if voters are absent from their places of residence on election or referendum day they can cast ballots in other parts of the country. In such cases, they should ask the police to include them on “additional lists” of voters submitted to corresponding electoral precincts.
“It turns out that those ‘additional lists’ include a very large number of people from rural areas, who have been granted the right to vote in Yerevan,” the No Front said in a statement. “The ‘additional list’ in each Yerevan precinct includes dozens of voters from a particular single rural community.”
“This means that we are dealing with a pre-planned falsification ploy,” charged the opposition bloc led by Levon Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress (HAK).
RFE/RL correspondents saw many such voters in several polling stations in Yerevan. In one of them, a group of people from the Kotayk province north of the Armenian capital cast ballots after being handed documents by unknown individuals near the polling station.
They could not clearly explain why they are not voting in their communities. A young woman from Kotayk’s capital Hrazdan said only that “we have come here on our own.”
An angry proxy representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) told an RFE/RL correspondent to stop interviewing those voters.
The presence of the Kotayk residents prompted vehement protests from Zaruhi Postanjian, a parliament deputy from the opposition Zharangutyun party who monitored voting in a nearby precinct. Postanjian claimed that provincial voters there were “directed” by two women standing outside the polling station.
The women refused to identify themselves. “We’re waiting for our family members,” one of them told Postanjian. “No, you are here for a different purpose,” insisted the outspoken oppositionist.
The Armenian police were quick to deny the No Front allegations. “The additional lists were drawn up in accordance with time frames and rules defined by the law,” said a police statement. It ruled out the possibility of multiple voting by citizens included on the lists.
The police also said that they are investigating 38 instances of fraud and referendum-related violence reported by the media by 2 p.m. local time. Those included an attack on an RFE/RL reporter outside an HHK office in Yerevan’s northern Arabkir district.
The police did not immediately react to a video report by another RFE/RL correspondent that showed a man handing out 10,000-dram ($21) notes to people from a minibus parked near a polling station in the city’s western Malatia-Sebastia district. The man tried to physically stop the reporter from filming him when he noticed the video camera. He then denied distributing vote bribes, saying that he is only “repaying debts.”