Armenia’s Constitutional Court opened on Tuesday hearings on an opposition appeal against the official results of this month’s parliamentary elections that gave victory to President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).
The Congress-HZhK alliance led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has accused the ruling HHK of systematically bribing and intimidating voters and using its administrative resources otherwise. It presented the court with more than 40 pages of written documents as well as video and audio material purportedly proving fraud.
In his opening remarks at the hearing, Levon Zurabian, a senior Congress-HZhK representative, claimed that the April 2 ballot left most Armenians with a sense of déjà vu.
“Every time elections are rigged, every time the opposition appeals to the Constitutional Court, and every time the Constitutional Court concludes that the reported irregularities did not influence the election results or does not look into the presented arguments and evidence on false grounds,” Zurabian told the panel of nine judges.
“As a result, the people are constantly disappointed with state institutions and lose faith in electoral processes,” he said.
Gagik Harutiunian, the Constitutional Court chairman, interrupted Zurabian, saying that he cannot make political statements and criticize past court rulings during the legal proceedings. “Instead of delivering a political speech, try to substantiate the claims that you have presented to the Constitutional Court,” he said.
Zurabian indicated on April 14 that he believes the court is unlikely to scrap the official results which showed Ter-Petrosian’s bloc garnering 1.65 percent of the vote. “We have no illusions but it’s our duty to finish this work,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Most Armenian opposition parties and blocs say that the outcome of the elections was primarily decided by large-scale vote buying by the HHK, a claim denied by the ruling party.
In an April 7 statement, the Congress-HZhK bloc also alleged “numerous registered cases of multiple voting” by government loyalists. It had said in the run-up to the polls that this type of fraud will be practically impossible because of opposition-backed amendments to the Electoral Code enacted by the authorities last fall.
Those changes led to the installation of electronic voter authentication devices in all polling stations. The authorities also agreed to publicize the signed lists of voters that cast ballots on April 2. This allowed opposition parties to verify whether somebody else voted in place of those Armenians who were absent from the country or simply boycotted the vote.
European election observers did not report significant instances of multiple voting in their preliminary findings released on April 3. They cited instead “credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.”
The documents submitted by the Congress-HZhK to the country’s highest court also include secretly recorded audio purportedly indicating that employees of a wealthy businessman affiliated with the HHK were told to campaign for his reelection to the parliament or lose their jobs. Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) launched last week a criminal investigation into the scandalous recording. It has not charged anyone yet.