Prosecutors See No Evidence of Referendum Fraud

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian law-enforcement authorities lack "concrete facts" to prosecute anyone in connection with fraud reported during last month’s constitutional referendum–Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian said on Tuesday.

Hovsepian revealed that the only person facing referendum-related criminal prosecution at the moment is a female opposition supporter who allegedly hit a state television reporter during an opposition rally held in the run-up to the November 27 vote.

"I am not a politician and can not make statemen’s. I can only draw conclusions and make assertions on the basis of facts substantiated with evidence. As a result of inspections carried out by us–no evidence has been found which would give me reason to confirm what has been said," he said at a news conference–referring to instances of fraud reported by local and foreign observers–opposition activists–and the media.

The Office of Prosecutor-General has requested and received written reports on vote irregularities from parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian–Central Election Commission (CEC) chairman Garegin Azarian–and representatives of the opposition National Unity Party (AMK).

"No individual or structure has presented us with [evidence] of violations–protests or other documen’s–explanations–or applications," he said.

State prosecutors also claim to be examining 25 referendum-related articles that appeared in Armenian newspapers. Hovsepian said the process is still going on but hinted strongly that it will not result in any criminal cases against officials that were involved in the conduct of the poll.

Armenia’s main opposition groups are reluctant to cooperate with law-enforcement authorities in their stated probe of the reported ballot stuffing and other irregularities–saying that the government itself orchestrated what they see as massive vote rigging.

Observers from the Council of Europe cast doubt on the credibility of the official referendum results–noting a sharp contrast between an unusually high turnout reported by the CEC and deserted polling stations. The observers–as well as the United States and the European Union–urged the Armenian authorities to investigate the reported fraud.

Both the US and the EU have endorsed the content of the constitutional package drafted by President Robert Kocharian and his governing coalition. Deputy parliament speaker Vahan Hovannisian hailed the referendum Tuesday as the coalition’s most important achievement in 2005–saying that the old constitution hampered Armenia’s development.

"That iron box had to be broken," Hovannisian told reporters. "Of course–it could have been broken more nicely. But [objections that the referendum] went a bit wrong are not important."


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