The Armenian National Congress, an opposition party led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, on Tuesday blamed vote buying and its own “tactical” mistakes for its poor showing in local elections held over the weekend.
Official results showed the HAK winning less than 2 percent of the vote in the most important of those elections held in Gyumri and Vanadzor. It will therefore not be represented in the municipal councils that will elect the mayors of Armenia’s second and third largest cities.
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) prevailed in these and many other communities across the country.
In a statement, the HAK said that the election outcome was essentially decided by vote buying, “social services” provided to voters by the HHK and its official or unofficial allies and their “personal relationships” with local residents.
“Unfortunately, the Armenian National Congress did not manage to accomplish the difficult task of politicizing the elections,” the statement said, adding that Ter-Petrosian’s party underestimated the “deep-rooted clan-based nature” of the vote.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, described the elections as an “auction.” “A political force can contest such elections only if it can politicize them,” he said. “Namely, to raise them from a clan-based level to a political level. This is something which we failed to do.”
“We need to revise our partisan, logistical and resource base and transform the party in general so as to approach the [April 2017] parliamentary elections in a more combative state and find remedies against those new forms of electoral fraud,” Zurabian told reporters.
Zurabian added that the HAK leadership will present “innovative ideas” at a party congress next month. “Those ideas will be mainly aimed at expanding our party’s resource base and engaging new people,” he said. He insisted, though, that Ter-Petrosian’s political team planned such changes even before the local elections.
The HAK statement similarly said that the party will now concentrate on the parliamentary elections because it considers regime change in Yerevan its “main strategic goal.” “The HAK will draw necessary conclusions from all this and develop methods of overcoming all forms of fraud,” it said.
The HAK was instrumental in a recent landmark agreement on the proper conduct of the 2017 vote which was reached by the Armenian government and three parliamentary opposition parties. The deal commits the government to enacting major legal safeguards against vote rigging.