Armenian opposition bloc decries election fraud, says will pick parliament mandates

Senior members of the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday accused the main election rival of rigging the May 6 parliamentary elections, claiming that the vote giving the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) a commanding presence in the next National Assembly does not reflect the real lineup of political forces in the country.

Addressing several thousand supporters at a public rally in Yerevan ANC member and editor of the Haykakan Zhamanak daily Nikol Pashinyan stressed, however, that the opposition bloc will not give up the seven mandates that it managed to win in the Sunday elections, narrowly clearing the seven-percent hurdle set for political blocs to enter the legislature, according to the official results. (Pashinyan is among the seven members of the opposition bloc to become a lawmaker. Meanwhile, the ANC leader, former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who headed the bloc’s proportional ticket at the elections, said he would not pick his mandate, instead letting former prime minister Hrant Bagratyan become a lawmaker).

The ANC’s mandates in the 131-seat body together with the seats to be held by another four political forces that have made it to the National Assembly still yield by seven to those to be controlled by the RPA. (With 44 percent of the vote polled on Sunday, the majority party is in a position to form a new government without a coalition and essentially govern the country single-handedly).

Two of these four parties, Heritage and ARF Dashnaktsutyun, too, have criticized the authorities for abusing the administrative resource in favor of the ruling party. Both said the elections were marred by widespread vote buying schemes and other violations that influenced the outcome of the vote.

The ANC has also made accusations of bribery, repeated ballot, voter list fraud and other violations as its representatives, including leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan, addressed the Tuesday rally. In particular, Aram Manukyan said they possessed evidence of violations committed by the authorities, such as inflating voter lists, tampering with stamps and ink, pressure on voters and candidates’ proxies and others – evidence that they will present while appealing the outcome of the elections at the Constitutional Court.

In what seems to be the only intrigue left now, the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), the RPA’s 2007-2012 coalition partner, which is set to take 36 seats in the next National Assembly and which jointly with the ANC and Dashnaktsutyun monitored the fairness of the May 6 elections as part of an inter-party headquarters, has yet to present its formal evaluation of the electoral process. A PAP representative said on Monday such an evaluation would be given after official final results of the elections were published later this week.

Furthermore, in a statement released on Tuesday, PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan only said that he would take all his further political decisions after “consultations and discussions with his team members” and his steps would be “open, transparent and acceptable to people.”

At least one senior PAP member, former foreign minister Vartan Oskanian, has already stated in one of his media interviews that he would categorically oppose a move to form another coalition with the RPA. During the four-week campaign leading to the Sunday vote that the PAP conducted on a platform critical of the RPA, Oskanian described the PAP’s coalition with the RPA in the past five years as “formal”, stressing that his party sought a chance of forming its own government or have a “genuine coalition” in the future political process.

Meanwhile, international observers gave a mixed assessment of Armenia’s elections in their joint preliminary report released on Monday. On the one hand, they praised the “vibrant and largely peaceful campaign, with overall balanced media coverage”, but on the other hand said that “pressure on voters and a deficient complaints process created an unequal playing field.” They also reported irregularities in a “significant number” of polling stations on voting day.