YEREVAN–As Armenia’s Central Election Commission issued preliminary results from Monday’s presidential elections placing President Serzh Sarkisian in the lead with 59.9 percent of the votes, second place rival Raffi Hovannisian, who garnered 36 percent of the vote based on initial results, seemed poised to challenge the outcome of the elections.
At a press conference late Monday night, Hovannisian, the chairman of the Heritage party, and his campaign team alleged wide-spread voter fraud. Comments made to reporters by Hovannisian could be construed as a declaration of victory.
“The Armenian people have won … and I am grateful for the people’s victory,” said Hovannisian at the news conference.
“For the first time in 20 years the citizens have said yes to our constitution, to the rule of law, to democracy and our future,” added Hovannisian, who went on to say that while Sarkisian will always hold an important place in history for his contributions in the Karabakh liberations struggle and his role in nation building the time had come for the realization that the people had won.
“This is not about Raffi and Serzh. This is not about Heritage or the [ruling] Republican Party. It’s about the future of the Republic of Armenia,” said Hovannisian.
“I had the honor in 1992 of raising the Armenian flag at the United Nations,” continued Hovannisian. “That was a great honor for me. But it is a greater honor to accept the mandate of the Armenian people in its first public expression of confidence in its own authority and future so that we may together, in the next five years, put Armenia on the map once again of world civilization, democratic statecraft, rule of law and pursuing the national interests.”
Hovannisian’s campaign spokesman, Hovsep Khurshudian, challenged the credibility of the first CEC figures, saying that the opposition candidate won in dozens of constituencies across the country, reported RFE/RL. “We have results from 42 precincts which strangely do not coincide with the CEC’s preliminary data from 21 or 22 precincts,” Khurshudian told journalists. Hovannisian got as much as 68 percent of the vote in those areas, he said.
Media reports likewise listed scores of precincts in Yerevan as well as central and northern Armenia where official results showed Hovannisian defeating the incumbent president, according to RFE/RL.
Khurshudian accused the Armenian authorities of pressuring election officials not to publicize vote protocols certifying the opposition victory. He also alleged fraudulent ballot counting in some precincts, said RFE/RL.
Early CEC results put former prime minister Hrant Bagratian in third place with 2.2 percent of the votes. The remaining four candidates Paruir Hayrikian, Andrias Ghukasyan, Vardan Sedrakyan and Armen Melikyan each received less than two percent of the votes, according to the preliminary results.
The CEC also announced that 60 percent of eligible voters took part in Monday’s election.
The election was being monitored by 6,251 members of local NGOs and 632 observers from 12 international organizations, including OSCE/ODIHR., CIS Mission, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, the International Center for Electoral Systems (ICES) and the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES).