Armenian opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian has insisted he is the rightful winner of Armenia's presidential election, rejecting as fraudulent the official results which gave victory to President Serzh Sarkisian.
Rallying thousands of supporters in Yerevan, Hovannisian gave Sarkisian until the evening of February 20 to meet with him and discuss “the transfer of power to the Armenian people.”
“I am already the elected president of the Republic of Armenia,” he told the enthusiastic crowd in the city’s Liberty Square on February 19. “I want to come here tomorrow at 5 p.m. and report to you that I met with Mr. Sarkisian and that he had the strength, manliness … to say that the Armenian people won and congratulate them.”
The U.S.-born politician, who was Sarkisian’s main election challenger, would not say what he will do if the incumbent rejects his demands. He indicated that he would unveil his plans in this regard at the next rally. He also said that he would use “all constitutional methods” to have the official vote results annulled.
Hovannisian addressed supporters and spoke to journalists in the square after the Central Election Commission (CEC) certified its preliminary vote results, which gave Sarkisian 58.6 percent of the vote.
According to the CEC, Hovannisian got 36.8 percent. Another opposition candidate, Hrant Bagratian, finished a distant third with 2.2 percent.
The official figures showed Hovannisian defeating the incumbent president in three districts in Yerevan as well as in Gyumri and Vanadzor -- Armenia’s second and third largest cities of respectively -- and several other major towns.
Unlike Hovannisian, Bagratian did not reject the CEC tally out of hand.
Asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service whether he thought the vote was rigged, he said, “I can’t tell. In order to make such a claim I need to know the scale of violations.”
Bagratian revealed that he, Hovannisian, and other opposition candidates are now discussing the possibility of issuing a joint statement on the election. He did not want to go into details.
Meanwhile, the CEC chairman, Tigran Mukuchian, defended the credibility of the official vote results. Speaking to RFE/RL, he suggested that the presidential ballot was the most democratic in the country’s history.
Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for Sarkisian’s Republican Party, also insisted that the election was free and fair.
“The holding of democratic elections in Armenia is now an irrefutable fact,” he said.