The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Wednesday admitted that vote bribes were distributed during the weekend parliamentary elections but insisted that they did not significantly affect the vote results.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman, argued that the elections did not spark opposition demonstrations. He also emphasized the fact that the United States and the European Union gave largely positive assessments of their conduct. “No votes were stolen,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Asked about reports of widespread vote buying, Sharmazanov said: “I can’t exclude that, if everyone talks about that. I haven’t come from the Moon. I won’t be an honest person if I say ‘of course nothing happened.’ If everyone says it, then it’s not a ghost, there is some truth in it.”
The official insisted, however, that the illegal practice did not have a “substantial impact on the election results” that that gave a landslide victory to the HHK. “Secondly, the overwhelming majority of reports about vote irregularities were false alerts,” he said.
“Thirdly, for the first time in 10-15 years people have not taken to the streets [to protest election results,]” Sharmazanov went on. “This means that the public accepts the results. This is a legitimate election.”
In their preliminary report released on Monday, Western observers mostly deployed by the OSCE said although “fundamental freedoms were generally respected” Sunday’s vote was “tainted by credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.” But they did not report significant instances of multiple voting or ballot stuffing.
The U.S. and the EU echoed the findings of the OSCE-led mission, while cautiously praising the overall conduct of the polls on Tuesday. The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said through a spokesperson that the official results reflect “the overall will of the Armenian people.”
The Armenian opposition parties and blocs say that the HHK retained its control of the parliament thanks to vote buying and abuse of government resources. But none of them has urged supporters to take to the streets.