The governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said on Wednesday that it is not behind a controversial lawsuit against a civil society group that has been filed by the directors of 30 state-run schools and kindergartens.
The Union of Informed Citizens (UIC) tricked them into confessing last month that they are campaigning hard for the HHK’s victory in the April 2 parliamentary elections.
UIC activists posed as HHK representatives when they telephoned 136 schools and kindergarten chiefs across Armenia. The vast majority of them admitted drawing up lists of students’ parents as well as schoolteachers and kindergarten staff who pledged to vote for the HHK.
The UIC said the lists were submitted to local government bodies or HHK campaign offices. It also publicized audio of those phone conversations.
Armenian opposition and civic groups have portrayed the revelations as further proof of the ruling party’s illegal use of administrative resources in the parliamentary race.
The school and kindergarten chiefs sued the UIC and its most prominent member, Daniel Ioannisian, earlier this week. They are seeking a formal apology and a total of 60 million drams ($124,000) in damages.
Armen Ashotian, an HHK deputy chairman, defended the legal action, saying that the public education officials have the right to defend themselves against what he called “information aggression.” But Ashotian dismissed civic activists’ claims that his party initiated the lawsuit in a bid to silence a vocal critic of the Armenian government.
“If human rights activists support their colleague, it is also natural that our party is supporting its members who think that their rights were violated,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But that support is purely moral. It will not enter the domain of political actions or illegal interferences. Those people themselves decided [to take the UIC to court.]”
Ashotian also dismissed arguments that Armenian courts will not hand down fair verdicts on the case because they rarely challenge the government. “The judicial system is also undergoing changes and transformations,” he claimed.