YEREVAN (Armenian Weekly)—Armenia’s Prosecutor General announced on April 14 that it is examining a troubling report published by Yerevan-based news outlet Hayastan24 on April 13, which includes a 40-minute recording of what is believed to be a staff meeting held by businessman Artak Sargsyan’s senior aides in the days leading up to the April 2 Parliamentary Elections.
In the recording, an unknown man can be heard threatening to fire employees of Sargsyan’s SAS supermarket chain who fail to guarantee in writing that their friends and families will vote for Sargsyan—a Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) candidate.
“For example, Anush Adamyan has brought 14 votes, let’s applaud Anush Adamyan,” says the man in Armenian, as reported by RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “How come Anush can bring [so many votes] but Ashot Aghakhanyan can’t?”
At another point in the recording, the man can be heard threatening employees. “Why haven’t you brought votes? You don’t want to? If you treat us like that, then we’ll treat you five times as badly,” he says.
The United States Embassy in Yerevan welcomed an announcement made by Prosecutor General’s office to investigate the report. “A credible and transparent investigation of this kind would be in line with the Prime Minister’s Feb. 9 warning against the use of administrative resources. We trust that the government will ensure there is no retaliatory action against any individual or organization that comes forward with credible information for investigation,” read a part of the statement released by the Embassy.
Sargsyan has held a seat in Armenia’s Parliament since 2004 and has not made public statements on the Parliament floor for at least five years.
This latest controversy comes less than three weeks after the Armenian civil society group the Union of Informed Citizens (UIC) announced on March 24 that one of its activists—posing as a senior Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) representative— telephoned the directors of 136 schools and kindergartens in and out of Yerevan, and revealed that 114 of them admitted to drawing up lists of students’ parents, as well as schoolteachers and staff, who promised to support the RPA in the 2017 Armenian Parliamentary Elections.
The directors of 30 public schools and kindergartens have since sued the UIC for posing as RPA representatives and tricking them into confessing that they have told their staffs and children’s parents to vote for the RPA.