ARF Press Conference Clarifies Post-Election Position

ARF Supreme Council of Armenia Representative Armen Rustamian and Armenian Presidential Candidate, ARF Bureau Member Vahan Hovannesian

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Council of Armenia Tuesday reiterated its position to resign from its government positions and called for the dissolution of the ruling coalition in parliament.
The announcement came during a press conference at the National Assembly Tuesday where ARF Supreme Council of Armenia Representative Armen Rustamian and ARF Bureau member and Presidential Candidate Vahan Hovannesian discussed the post-election situation in Armenia.
Rustamian told reporters that the ARF reiterates its position stated in the 2007 cooperation agreement with the ruling coalition and is ready to give up the government offices it serves.
"We are requesting that that the coalition stop its cooperation," Rustamian said.
In what appears to be a possible switch to opposition within the parliament, Rustamian, who served as Hovannesian’s campaign manager, told reporters that the ARF ministers in the government will resign from their posts before the new president-elect is to be inaugurated on April 9. ARF parliamentarians currently serve as the ministers of Agriculture, the Minister of Education and Science and the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs.
Two artificial poles have emerged within the society and ARF will act as an independent force from this point forward, he said, adding that the party will not be put in a position where it has to act against one political pole in favor of another.
The ARF is ready, instead, to work in order to bridge the post-election divide that has emerged in the country, Rustamian exclaimed.
Rustamian told reporters that the ARF has realized the nature of the problem and is seeking changes to the electoral code that will secure effective mechanisms for supervising the elections and preventing massive vote rigging and other manifestations of electoral fraud. Stable democratic development and the establishment of democratic traditions in Armenia have been the focus of the ARF’s platform since the 2007 parliamentary elections.
The electoral system in Armenia is deeply flawed, Rustamian said. The election of Serzh Sarkisian, he explained, is a direct result of this flawed system and thus cannot be disputed. The system is what must be disputed, he added.
"The elections once again revealed that there are two key problems in Armenia," said Rustamian. "The electoral system does not allow for people’s real preferences to be expressed through the ballot, while the methods of preventing election fraud available to our society are very limited."
Rustamian pointed to the current situation in the country as being a logical outgrowth of the fact that political groups and civil society as a whole, have very few opportunities to supervise the electoral process in order thwart election fraud.
It will be the ARF’s goal to address this problem as well as the failures of the electoral system in its future activities, Hovannesian added.
The ARF came to these conclusions based on the information received from the electoral commissions and the complaints and observations from people throughout the regions of Armenia, Rustamian explained.
Hovannesian echoed the sentimen’s expressed in the official statement released by the ARF Supreme Council on Monday. Like previous elections in Armenia, he said, this one was also marred by reports of fraud in several election precincts. The authorities must take real steps toward eliminating such occurrences as widespread vote buying, which were practiced by three major presidential candidates, Hovannesian added.
"The leading candidates’ supporters engaged in rampant, obvious and veiled bribery," read Monday’s statement. "In some precincts ballot stuffing and brutal force were observed. The process of counting the ballots was also marred by irregularities," read the official statement."
"We know about vote rigging incidents but we can not prove them at court," Rustamian added.
In response to the dual rallies held Tuesday by supporters of former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, Rustamian called upon the confronting sides to refrain from any action that might escalate the situation further.
"We are calling on one side not to attempt any forceful change of the regime, and we are calling on the other side to respect the opinion of those who have rightful grounds to doubt the election results and have the right to express their discontent," he said.
"The public has not come to the same conclusions about the results of the election, and tensions continue to mount," the statement said. "Our country is facing the imperative of preventing post-election polarization and reinstating the atmosphere of cooperation."
According to both men, the only way to avoid turmoil is to conduct a detailed and complete investigation into every reported instance of voter fraud and punish those found responsible. This is a necessity if Armenia is to prevent electoral fraud in the future, Rustamian and Hovannesian both agreed.

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