YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Electoral authorities in Armenia have invalidated the official results of Sunday’s municipal elections in three Yerevan precincts and asked prosecutors to investigate what they said was serious fraud committed there.
All of those polling stations are located in Yerevan’s Malatia-Sebastia district, from which the Armenian opposition, mass media and independent observers reported the largest number of irregularities on election day.
The decision to invalidate the polls held there was made late Wednesday by two district election commissions covering Malatia-Sebastia. The Central Election Commission (CEC) said on Thursday that it sent the ballots, vote protocols and other documents from the precincts to the MalaOffice of the Prosecutor-General, asking it to open a criminal case.
The development means that elections in the three polling stations may have to be re-run, something which would delay the announcement of the final vote results by the CEC. Still, repeat polls would hardly have a major impact on the CEC’s preliminary vote tally that gave a landslide victory to President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia. The Armenian opposition has rejected it as fraudulent.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS), a law-enforcement agency subordinated to the prosecutors, has already launched criminal proceedings into fraud reported by Armenian media in seven other Malatia-Sebastia polling stations. A member of one of those precinct commissions and another local resident supporting the Republican Party were arrested by the SIS on Tuesday on charges of stuffing “fake ballots” marked for the ruling party.
The SIS also supervised on Thursday recounts in two other Malatia-Sebastia precincts conducted by CEC representatives. In one of them, a sack of cast ballots, supposedly sealed and signed by precinct commission members, was found to have been tampered with.
Malatia-Sebastia has been a major trouble spot in various elections held in Armenia over the past decade. Samvel Aleksanian, one of the country’s wealthiest men holding sway in the area, has been widely linked with voter intimidation, vote buying and other irregularities reported there. Aleksanian is also known as a longtime backer of President Sarkisian and the Republican Party.