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Armenia's Ruling Party Says Opposition 'In Decline'

Republican Party of Armenia spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov
Republican Party of Armenia spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov
YEREVAN -- Armenia's ruling Republican Party (HHK) says a January 10 parliamentary by-election in Yerevan showed a decrease in the popularity for the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the chief HHK spokesman, argued that the opposition alliance failed to win the disputed vote despite the involvement of its leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrossian.

Sharmazanov also pointed to the very low voter turnout -- some 20 percent -- in a constituency where he said opposition forces have traditionally done well.

The low turnout shows that HAK's "approval rating has declined all over Armenia, including the center of Yerevan, which is the most politicized part of the country," Sharmazanov said.

The HAK claims that its candidate, the jailed journalist Nikol Pashinian, lost the election because the vote was rigged in favor of pro-government candidate Ara Simonian, who received 57 percent of the vote according to official results. Pashinian officially got 37.5 percent.

One HAK leader said last week that the opposition performance was "astonishing" given the fact that Pashinian is in prison and widespread vote buying, intimidation, and violence was perpetrated by Simonian's campaign.

Sharmazanov refused to comment on the fraud allegations because he said the HHK did not have a candidate in the by-election. He dismissed opposition claims that the party, which is led by President Serzh Sarkisian, mobilized its "vote-rigging machine" to thwart Pashinian's victory.