Voting was largely peaceful but there were allegations of government pressure on voters and harassment of opposition activists. There were virtually no reports of violent incidents inside polling stations across the country.
According to preliminary data from the Central Election Commission (CEC), 49.4 percent of Armenia’s 2.6 million eligible voters participated in the snap polls. Many of those Armenians live abroad and are not allowed to cast ballots outside their country, suggesting that actual turnout was higher.
The highest official turnout (60.4 percent) was registered in southeastern Syunik province, an opposition stronghold and major source of complaints and irregularities alleged during Sunday’s voting.
In the provincial town of Goris and two nearby villages, representatives of major opposition alliances led by former Presidents Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian claimed that soldiers serving there were told by their commanders to vote for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party.
“They stand a bit far away from the polling booths and all drop the same ballots on orders,” an opposition proxy at a Goris polling station told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
The Armenian Defense Ministry denied that such orders were issued to soldiers in Syunik or any other part of the country.
Armen Khachatrian, a Civil Contract figure who has represented a Syunik constituency in Armenia’s outgoing parliament, also dismissed the allegations made by Kocharian’s Hayastan bloc and Sarkisian’s Pativ Unem alliance.
Khachatrian accused the two opposition forces of trying to buy votes before and during the elections. He said that more of their members will be prosecuted in the coming days.
In another Syunik town, Sisian, police raided on Sunday morning Hayastan’s local campaign headquarters. Artur Sargsian, the Sisian mayor affiliated with Hayastan, said they looked for fake ballots but did not find any. Nevertheless, he said, they confiscated a computer and detained two local campaign activists of the Kocharian-led bloc.
The bloc condemned the police actions, saying that they are aimed at “paralyzing” the work of its Syunik campaigners.
In Yerevan, law-enforcement authorities detained late on Saturday several supporters of Hayastan and the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) on suspicion of distributing or receiving vote bribes.
The office of Armenia’s human rights defender, Arman Tatoyan, expressed concern over those detentions. It said one of the detainees told office representatives that police officers verbally abused her and threatened to prosecute her if she does not confess to vote buying.
Sarkisian’s Pativ Unem bloc said that dozens of its members have been rounded up in recent days.
The ex-president claimed that “the entire law-enforcement system” is harassing the bloc seen as one of the main opposition election contenders. Speaking to journalists after voting at a Yerevan polling station, he condemned “illegal arrests” of its members and “illegal searches conducted” at Pativ Unem offices in various parts of Armenia.
The Armenian police said, meanwhile, that they received 57 reports of election-related violations and launched preliminary inquiries into 20 of them as of 4 p.m. local time.
No serious irregularities were reported in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri. Election observers and opposition proxies interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service at two local polling stations said they did not witness any wrongdoing.