Central Election Commissions Seats Difficult to Come By as Deadline Ends

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian Revolutionary Federation looked set on Friday to get one of 13 seats in all-level electoral commissions crucial for controlling the course of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

The ARF is expected to be among those five parties and blocs that have collected the highest number of voters’ signatures and will therefore have their representatives among election officials. Under Armenia’s election law–five other seats will be given to parties having factions in the current parliament and the remaining three to the government.

With just under 200,000 signatures–the ARF got to the fifth place after the Armenian Democratic League of Armenia (Ramkavar Azatakan) withdrew part of its submitted forms in a surprise last-minute move.

The ADLA initially claimed to have collected more than 240,000 signatures but ended up with 190,000.

One of the party’s leaders–Harutiun Karapetian–said the figure was revised downwards because of "possible mistakes" made by its activists during the process. Both he and ARF campaign manager Hrant Markarian denied that the decision was made under government pressure or was the result of a deal reached behind the scenes. "Everything is normal," Karapetian told reporters.

The ARF–which will be a major contender during the May 30 elections–voiced serious concerns over the signature collection after it became clear that its membership in electoral commissions is in question. Some ARF leaders have accused other parties of submitting fake signatures and even threatened to boycott the elections.

The ARF is a key ally of President Robert Kocharian. Two of the government ministers and a provincial governor are its members. Both the ARF and the ADLA backed Kocharian’s successful bid in last year’s presidential elections.

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