The United States urged Armenia on Tuesday to investigate any credible reports of irregularities in a weekend referendum in which preliminary results showed voters approving a strengthening of the prime minister’s powers. The changes envisaged in Sunday’s referendum, which are due to come into force after elections in May 2017, would curb the role of the historically powerful president and give more authority to the Armenian prime minister and parliament. The opposition has said the changes are a ruse to let President Serzh Sarksyan take on an enhanced prime ministerial role at the head of the Republican Party after his presidential term ends in 2018. He has denied that. His supporters have said the changes are needed to prevent political instability.
Armenians voted in a referendum to boost the prime minister’s powers, results showed on Monday, a move supporters say will bolster stability but opponents warn will entrench the ruling party’s control over the ex-Soviet state. Observers from the Council of Europe rights group reported problems with the voting lists and other irregularities, and said that the low turnout suggested many voters saw Sunday’s referendum as a piece of political maneuvering. The ruling Republican party, which called the vote, said minor violations could not affect the result.
About 5,000 flag-waving protesters rallied on Wednesday against Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan’s re-election, saying his victory was tainted by fraud.
Supporters of Sarksyan’s second-placed rival Raffi Hovannisian filled Freedom Square in the centre of the capital Yerevan to condemn what they said were uncounted ballots and other violations. “Are you ready to stay here long?” Hovannisian asked the crowd. “Are you ready to stay here until victory? I’m ready. The constitution should win over fraud,” he said, raising a first above his head after kneeling to kiss the national flag.
Armenians have begun voting in presidential elections already marred by the shooting of an opposition candidate and the lack of any prominent alternative to incumbent Serzh Sarksyan. The government is hoping for a peaceful election that will improve the country’s prospects of European integration, after the disputed presidential elections that brought Sarksyan to power in 2008 ended in clashes in which 10 people died. Sarksyan has called for the elections to be “exemplary” and stressed that Armenia has “no future” if its polls cannot correspond to European standards. Most opinion polls give Sarksyan a strong lead and the fractured opposition forces have failed to find a common challenger to the incumbent leader. … International observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe will monitor voting, which was scheduled to end at 1600 GMT.
An Armenian presidential candidate who was shot last month cancelled an application to postpone next week’s election, a Constitutional Court spokesman said on Monday, paving the way for the vote to be held as scheduled. Paruyr Hayrikyan, an outsider in the race which is widely expected to see current President Serzh Sarksyan win a new five-year term, was shot in the shoulder on January 31 near his home in the capital Yerevan. Hayrikyan, who had initially said he would not delay the vote, asked the Constitutional Court for a two-week postponement of the February 18 poll, raising concerns over instability in the former Soviet republic of 3.2 million.
An Armenian presidential candidate who was shot has appealed for this month’s election to be delayed to allow him more time to campaign, raising concerns over instability in the former Soviet republic. Paruyr Hayrikyan, who was shown on television looking pale and bedridden with his arm in a cast, had initially said he would not seek a postponement. He changed his mind just few hours before a deadline to apply to the Constitutional Court to delay the February 18 vote after doctors advised him to remain in hospital. “We’ve applied the Constitutional Court with a request to postpone the election for two weeks due to Paruyr Hayrikyan’s health problems and the fact that he can’t campaign,” Vrezh Zatikyan, the candidate’s aide, told Reuters.