Armenia’s Constitutional Court on Friday rejected 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 accused the HHK of bribing and intimidating voters and resorting to other falsifications. It presented the court with more than 40 pages of written documents as well as video and audio material purportedly proving fraud.
In a verdict read out by its chairman, Gagik Harutiunian, the court said the Congress-HZhK did not submit the kind of factual evidence that would warrant an annulment of the official vote results. The opposition appeal was also short on specifics, it said.
Congress-HZhK representatives boycotted the announcement of the verdict. “I don’t think that the truth will prevail today,” Levon Zurabian, a leading member of the bloc, said in his concluding remarks at the court hearings earlier in the day. “But one day we will do that together with the whole nation.”
“I don’t want to participate in this farce anymore,” Zurabian declared before walking out of the courtroom.
Vahe Grigorian, a lawyer representing the Congress-HZhK, challenged the court to demonstrate its independence by scrapping the official results that showed Ter-Petrosian’s bloc winning 1.65 percent of the vote.
The chairman of Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC), Tigran Mukuchian, insisted, meanwhile, that the bloc failed to come up with “proper evidence” of widespread and systematic electoral fraud. “In court, you have to speak with facts, rather than make political statements,” he told reporters.
Mukuchian claimed that the CEC ensured “full transparency” in the April 2 elections not least because of opposition-backed amendments to the Electoral Code enacted by the Armenian authorities last fall.
Those changes led to the installation of electronic voter authentication devices in all polling stations. The authorities publicized 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 elections.
Mukuchian said the Congress-HZhK failed to prove any instances of multiple voting based on a thorough examination of those lists. He also downplayed media reports about the HHK’s use of its administrative resources, saying that those irregularities did not affect the overall election outcome.
The documents submitted by the Congress-HZhK to the country’s highest court included 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.
In a joint preliminary report issued on April 3, European observers said the Armenian authorities largely respected “fundamental freedoms” during the “well-administered” vote. But they also reported “credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.”
Nevertheless, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stated through a spokesperson that the official vote results “reflect the overall will of the Armenian people.” The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan similarly congratulated “the people of Armenia” on the conduct of the ballot.