Monday, December 05, 2005

Armenian Speaker Chided For Admitting Referendum Fraud

RFE/RL Armenia Report - 12/02/2005

By Ruzanna Stepanian

Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian was attacked by a fellow leader of Armenia's governing coalition on Friday for giving weight to reports of serious fraud that clouded the referendum on constitutional amendments.

In a newspaper interview published on Thursday, Baghdasarian said, `It is obvious that there was ballot box stuffing and I agree that it did not add to our honor.' He blamed the fraud on unspecified `individuals with a criminal mentality who are prepared for everything to please their bosses.'

The remarks were denounced as `unacceptable' by Galust Sahakian, the parliamentary leader of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party (HHK). `If a high-level state official like Artur Baghdasarian says there was ballot stuffing, he must immediately submit relevant facts to the appropriate bodies,' Sahakian told RFE/RL. `I think that expressing theories about the referendum, associating it with negative phenomena or again trying to please somebody is neither political nor civilized.'

Sahakian would say who he believes Baghdasarian, often accused of populism, is trying to please.

The HHK, Baghdasarian's Orinats Yerkir Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) hold most of the ministerial posts in the government and have co-sponsored President Robert Kocharian's constitutional amendments. In a joint statement earlier this week, they strongly endorsed the official results of the November 27 referendum and denied opposition claims that it was rigged.

Baghdasarian's remarks clearly contradicted the statement and could be exploited by the opposition.

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