Opposition wins a fifth of council seats, announces boycott
Yerevan – President Serge Sargsian‘s Republican Party of Armenia on May 31 won 35 seats in Yerevan’s 65-seat municipal assembly, allowing its candidate, Mayor Gagik Beglarian, to stay on as Yerevan’s chief executive, according to preliminary results released by Armenia’s Central Electoral Commission.
The Prosperous Armenia Party, which is part of the governing coalition nationally, won 17 seats. The opposition Armenian National Congress won the remaining 13 seats.
The Central Electoral Commission reported that 412,464 people, or 53 percent of eligible Yerevan voters, participated in the election. Voters included noncitizens who have been registered residents of Yerevan for more than one year.
The outcome put the Republican Party in firm control of the municipal assembly. It also entitled former president Levon Ter-Petrossian, whose name was at the top of the Armenian National Congress list, to claim a seat in the municipal assembly. Accusing the authorities of election fraud, however, Mr. Ter-Petrossian announced that the Congress would permanently boycott the assembly.
Observers weigh in
“The overall organization of the elections has been broadly carried out in compliance with European standards,” said Nigel Mermagen, the British head of a 12-member monitoring mission from the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE).
“In this respect, the election observation mission of the Congress noted a considerable step forward in comparison to the local elections which took place in Yerevan in September 2008,” Mr. Mermagen added.
Mr. Sargsian meanwhile also hailed the conduct of the election.
“The May 31 elections and the entire pre-election period demonstrated that we have managed to solve a considerable part of long-standing problems existing in electoral processes and moved forward in solving others,” the president said. “As a result, these elections were a truly serious step forward.”
The president acknowledged violations in “some polling stations” and said he would seek to ensure that “all the guilty are identified and strictly punished.”
Other observers had a negative assessment of the election process, accusing the two parties that gained the most votes of bribing and intimidating voters. Amalia Kostanian of the Armenian affiliate of Transparency International said, “We are shocked. And we are people who have long monitored elections.”
Mr. Kostanian’s group and the Vanadzor branch of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly had jointly deployed 60 observers in Yerevan’s Malatia-Sebastia district, which turned out to be one of the main trouble spots during the voting,
Armenia’s Office of the Prosecutor-General urged the Central Election Commission (CEC) to order vote recounts in eight precincts in the Malatia-Sebastia district.
In its preliminary report, the Central Electoral Commission said 401,316 valid ballots were cast. Of these, 190,171 or 47 percent went to the Republicans; 91,141 or 23 percent to the Prosperous Armenia Party; 69,871 or 17 percent to the Armenian National Congress.
Another 20,959 or 5 percent went to the Country of Laws Party; 18,648 or 5 percent to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutiun); 8,569 or 2 percent to the People’s Party; and 1,951 or under 1 percent to the Socialist Labor Party.
Two parties, the Republican and Prosperous Armenia Parties, overcame a 7 percent threshold for occupying seats in the assembly; the Armenian National Congress, as an alliance of parties, overcame a 9 percent threshold for occupying seats.
The seats are to be allocated to those three groups in proportion to the share of the vote that went to the three groups: 54 percent to the Republican Party; 26 percent to the Prosperous Armenia Party; and 20 percent to the Armenian National Congress.
“If beating a journalist, bussing thousands of voters to polling stations, handing out vote bribes, bullying [opposition] proxies and commission members are European standards, then we don’t need those European standards,” Mr. Ter-Petrossian said in response to the positive assessment of the election process by European observers. “Let them take those standards and apply them to themselves.”
Retracting conditional overtures of cooperation he had made to the president over the last few months, Mr. Ter-Petrossian announced, “We are officially refusing to engage in any dialogue with Serge Sargsian on any condition.”
“No document signed by Serge Sargsian has legal force for us. Especially if that document applies to Turkish-Armenian relations and the resolution of the Karabakh conflict,” Mr. Ter-Petrossian added. He was addressing a rally of some 10,000 supporters.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation, meanwhile, said it was inclined to look for the reasons for its reported performance only in its own work. A party statement added, however, that “citizens continue to vote by succumbing to administrative pressure from the authorities, vote bribes, and demagoguery.”