Yelk Criticized Over Campaign Pledge
YEREVAN— On May 10, Armenia’s Central Election Committee (CEC) said that it is going look into the legality of Yelk alliance’s controversial pledge to financially reward residents of Yerevan refusing to sell their votes to the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), reported RFE/RL Armenian service.
CEC chairman Tigran Mukuchyan told RFE/RL that the CEC will take “appropriate measures” if it concludes that the pledge is illegal.
Earlier this week, Yelk stated that it would offer each voter that has rejected bribes 15,000 drams ($31) from the municipal budget if its candidate, Nikol Pashinyan, wins the May 14 Mayoral Elections. Pashinyan and other Yelk bloc leaders hope that their promise will seriously affect the systematic vote buying by the RPA.
In recent days, the offer has provoked strong criticism from opposition forces as well as civil society activists who believe that Yelk’s pledge will lead to vote buying anyway.
On May 10, the other candidate in the mayoral race Zaruhi Postanjyan accused Yelk of breaking the law.
“This is an action punishable by criminal law,” she said. “We should implement instead long-term development programs so that people do not need those 15,000 drams in the first place.”
Levon Zurabyan of the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) said he feels it’s wrong to fight the authorities using their tactics. The ANC is currently boycotting the mayoral elections.
Heriknaz Tigranyan, a legal expert with the Armenian affiliate of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, suggested that Yelk’s offer opposes the country’s electoral code, which bans election candidates from distributing or even promising material aid and services to voters.
Meanwhile, Daniel Ioanniysan of the Union of Informed Citizens (UIC) disagreed, arguing that the financial rewards would be legally paid by a Yelk controlled municipal administration, rather than private sources.
“I think that this is more of a [regular] pre-election pledge than a promise to buy votes,” he said. “If I say, for example, that I will raise pensions if I am elected, is that a campaign promise or a vote bribe? In my view, it’s a campaign promise.”
Vote bribes reportedly averaged 10,000 drams per person in Armenia’s recent Parliamentary Elections. Opposition and civic groups believed that the RPA won mainly because cash handed out to poor voters across the country.
Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: Yelk Criticized Over Campaign Pledge