The Central Election Commission (CEC) on Friday again rejected opposition demands to help disqualify the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) because of its alleged abuse of government levers.
Two Armenian opposition blocs appealed to the CEC after the Union of Informed Citizens, a non-governmental organization, publicized last week purported evidence that public school principals are illegally pressurizing their staffs and students’ parents to vote for the HHK in the April 2 parliamentary elections.
The UIC said its activists posing as HHK representatives telephoned the directors of 136 schools and kindergartens across Armenia. It said 114 of them admitted drawing up lists of children’s parents as well as schoolteachers and kindergarten staff who pledged support for the HHK.
The lists were submitted to local government bodies or HHK campaign offices, according to the UIC. The civic group also released audio of those phone conversations.
Armenian opposition forces portrayed the revelations as further proof of their allegations of HHK foul play in the parliamentary race. The opposition ORO and Yelk blocs lodged separate appeals with the CEC, demanding that the commission ask an Armenian court to bar President Serzh Sarkisian’s party from the elections.
The CEC, which is dominated by government supporters, unanimously rejected both appeals on Tuesday and Friday. Its chairman, Tigran Mukuchian, again insisted that the drawing up of those lists alone does not constitute pre-election campaigning. Mukuchian also said the scandalous revelations do not prove that the school and kindergarten chiefs abused their powers to drum up support for the HHK.
Artak Zeynalian, a legal representative of Yelk, accused the CEC of failing to enforce Armenian electoral legislation. “Instead of clarifying whether that illegal practice was on a large scale, the CEC has taken on the role of an HHK advocate,” he said.
The HHK admitted last Friday that many school principals are campaigning for its election victory. But it claimed that they are doing so “beyond their work hours and work duties.”
Earlier this week, the United States and the European Union missions in Yerevan issued a joint statement expressing concern at “allegations of voter intimidation, attempts to buy votes, and the systemic use of administrative resources to aid certain competing parties.”