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Opposition Bloc Pledges Cash Rewards To Prevent Vote Buying


Armenia - Nikol Pashinian (R) and Edmon Marukian, leaders of the opposition Yelk alliance, hold a news conference in Yerevan, 8May2017.

The opposition Yelk alliance promised on Monday that residents of Yerevan refusing to take vote bribes from the ruling Republican Party (HHK) will receive greater financial rewards if it wins Sunday’s municipal elections.

It said that each of them would be paid 15,000 drams ($31) by the new municipal administration in that case.

Vote bribes reportedly averaged 10,000 per person in Armenia’s recent parliamentary elections. Armenian opposition and civic groups believe that the HHK won the April 2 vote primarily because of cash handed out to impoverished voters across the country.

Nikol Pashinian, Yelk’s candidate for the post of Yerevan mayor, insisted that the financial incentives promised by him are not an alternative form of vote buying because they would be legally allocated by the new city council. Yelk is simply trying to stop the HHK and Taron Markarian, the incumbent mayor seeking reelection, from illegally exploiting widespread poverty, he said.

“We would introduce social aid for citizens coerced into taking vote bribes,” Pashinian told reporters.

Pashinian, who is widely regarded as Markarian’s main challenger, did not clarify how he would verify that Yerevan residents applying for the one-off financial aid indeed refused vote bribes. He estimated that roughly 3 billion drams ($6.2 million) would be needed to compensate them.

Pashinian also claimed that a Yelk-controlled municipality would be able to raise that sum by streamlining its budgetary expenditure.“In our view, Yerevan’s budgetary funds are not spent efficiently, carry corruption risks … and don’t benefit citizens as much as they should,” he said.

Markarian, in office since 2011, did not comment on Yelk’s unorthodox pledge when he held a campaign rally later in the day. He declined to speak to reporters.

According to opinion polls conducted by government-linked individuals, the ruling HHK is on course to win more than 60 percent of seats in the new city council that will be elected on Sunday. The Yerevan mayor will be appointed by the council.

Edmon Marukian, another Yelk leader, dismissed these opinion polls as fraudulent. “Our research suggests that we are on the brink of victory,” he claimed.

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