An Armenian law-enforcement body launched on Wednesday a criminal investigation into a secretly recorded audio suggesting that employees of a pro-government businessman were told to help him get reelected to parliament or lose their jobs.
The Hayastan24.com website posted last week the recording of what it called a staff meeting that was held by businessman Artak Sargsian’s senior aides in the run-up to the April 2 parliamentary elections.
It features the voice of an unknown man threatening to fire those employees of Sargsian’s SAS supermarket chain in Yerevan who have failed to guarantee in writing that their friends and relatives will vote for their boss. The man also promises lavish bonuses to their colleagues who will “bring votes” to the candidate of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
Sargsian, who retained his parliament seat in the elections, has still not commented on the scandal.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) said it has opened a criminal case in connection with the recording. It did not immediately specify who will be questioned or possibly charged in the probe.
Sargsian and other wealthy HHK candidates running for the parliament already faced last month media allegations that they are bullying their workers and bribing many other voters for electoral purposes.
Opposition parties as well as civil society groups and human rights activists have portrayed the recording as further proof that the HHK illegally used its administrative and financial levers to win the parliamentary elections. The ruling party insists that the vote was democratic.
In a preliminary report released on April 3, European election observers cited “credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.”