Preliminary results emerging from Sunday’s mayoral vote in Hrazdan show the local incumbent beating his opposition challenger.
With all votes from 27 polling stations counted, Aram Danielyan, who enjoys the backing of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), is leading with 13,100 votes against Sasun Mikayelyan, a former Hrazdan mayor and lawmaker now affiliated with the main opposition Armenian National Congress, who has 11,500 votes.
(Some 58 percent of Hrazdan’s nearly 44,000 eligible voters (25,395) cast their ballots in the Sunday vote).
Mikayelyan and his supporters claim violations took place in the process in favor of the pro-government candidate.
Danielyan’s camp denies any wrongdoing, while, too, leveling accusations of certain violations against Mikayelyan’s supporters.
A video emerged on YouTube on Sunday on which one of Mikayelyan proxies, Gurgen Yeghiazaryan, talks to a woman who came to a polling station to cast a ballot, but asked for cash, 5,000 drams (about $13), to vote in favor of the incumbent mayor.
Later, another video appeared on Facebook about a purported “den” of vote buyers, as well as recordings of various sorts of violations at different polling stations.
Mikayelyan, too, accused the opposite camp of vote buying. The opposition candidate’s proxies also claim that at some polling stations the sealing stamps were not new as required by law, but had been used “not so long ago” (possibly for stamping ballot-paper envelops).
Kotayk Governor Kovalenko Shahgeldyan, who backed Danielyan in the election, brushed aside those accusations, saying that the current opposition (the core of which was in power in the 1990s) itself “planted the seeds of electoral fraud in Armenia.”
“A person who has done it believes others also do it,” he claimed, suggesting that the winning candidate did not need to resort to any such practice as he enjoyed a considerable support among the local population.
Meanwhile, Danielyan told A1+ that his victory was the victory of President Serzh Sargsyan, who is the leader of the RPA. “I am an RPA member and my victory is Serzh Sargsyan’s victory,” he said.
The February 12 local elections in several urban and rural communities across Armenia and, in particular, the mayoral vote in Hrazdan have largely been viewed as a litmus test for the Armenian political leadership’s commitment to hold a clean vote in the parliamentary elections due in May.
Therefore, the Hrazdan vote, in particular, due to being a competitive one, with one of the candidates representing the opposition, attracted particularly great attention from observer groups and media.
The Vanadzor Office of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly conducted an observation mission in Hrazdan for the entire day. Its head Artur Sakunts said there had been vote buying. He also said that the bias of a majority of election commission members in favor of the incumbent mayor could be felt.
“The insufficient knowledge of the Election Code by commission members created difficulties. For me it was very surprising to see a policeman, who does not vote at a given polling station, enter and have a separate chat with the head of the polling station’s commission,” Sakunts told ArmeniaNow.
The Police’s Public Relations and Information Department later released a report, saying that no major incidents were registered during the vote in Hrazdan.
Mikayelyan's representative said while they did not agree with the announced results of the vote, they considered seeking a recount "pointless".
The Central Election Commission was due to report the final results for the February 12 local elections in nine provinces of Armenia before 2 pm Monday.