YEREVAN — Armenia’s Constitutional Court on Thursday rejected opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian’s and another candidate’s demands to invalidate the official results of the February 18 presidential election that gave victory to incumbent President Serzh Sarkisian.
In a 34-page verdict read out by its chairman, Gagik Harutiunian, the court upheld the decision by Armenia’s Central Election Commission, which said there were no legal violations during the vote.
It also rejected Hovannisian’s separate demand to declare him the rightful winner of the vote, saying that the leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party failed to present any compelling evidence in support of that claim.
The Constitutional Court scrapped the official vote tally in only one of Armenia’s 1,988 electoral precincts where two local observers claimed to have witnessed large-scale ballot stuffing by government loyalists. The precinct covers part of Artashat, a town 30 kilometers south of Yerevan notorious for election-related violence and other violations. The number of voters living there is too small to have any impact on the overall election outcome.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), Sarkisian won reelection outright with 58.6 percent of the vote, while Hovannisian finished second with around 37 percent.
The panel of nine judges at the same recognized widespread public distrust in official vote results. In a carefully-worded sentence, it blamed this on the “merger of political, economic and administrative resources” in Armenia.
Tigran Mukuchian, the pro-government chairman of the CEC, welcomed the widely anticipated ruling. He said the court highlighted “baseless judgments and evaluations” made by the opposition candidates.
Zaruhi Postanjian, one of Hovannisian’s legal representatives, condemned the decision, accusing Armenia’s highest court of “sponsoring” Sarkisian. She also said that the Hovannisian campaign plans to organize alternative “court hearings” on the election at Liberty Square, the main venue of the opposition leader’s post-election protests.
Hovannisian, who has been on a hunger strike in the Square since Sunday, is set to continue his protest until Inauguration Day, April 9, warning that President Sarkisian will be sworn in only on his, Hovannisian’s, “dead body”.