The chairman of Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC), Tigran Mukuchian, was harshly criticized by the opposition Yelk alliance as he defended the conduct of recent legislative elections in the parliament on Monday.
“The elections of the National Assembly were held in conformity with the Electoral Code,” Mukuchian told lawmakers.
“The elections marked further progress and a very important step forward in the electoral process,” he said.
Deputies representing Yelk rejected this assessment, pointing to recent scandals resulting from media revelations about the alleged abuse by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) of its administrative resources in the run-up to the April 2 vote. One of them, Mane Tandilian, said that was enough for the CEC to disqualify the HHK from the race.
“What other facts or grounds were needed for taking such a punitive measure and somewhat restoring public trust,” she asked Mukuchian. The latter defended the CEC’s pre-election decision not to sanction the party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian.
Yelk and other opposition groups charged earlier that vote buying and abuse of government resources was decisive in the HHK’s election victory. The HHK denies that.
Western observers mostly deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on April 3 that although “fundamental freedoms were generally respected,” the elections were “tainted by credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.”
Yelk’s parliamentary leader, Nikol Pashinian, decried the authorities’ handling of not only the parliamentary elections but also municipal polls that were held in Yerevan in May. Pashinian recalled the discovery on the eve of the May 14 ballot of what Yelk considers evidence of vote buying at an HHK campaign office in Yerevan.
“This attests not to an election but to the existence of a criminal group called the Republican Party,” charged Pashinian. “I can prove that in any court. That criminal group is headed by Serzh Sarkisian.”