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U.S. Issues Sharp Criticism Of Armenian By-Election

Screenshot of video showing a conflict between journalists and electoral sector officials in Yerevan on January 10
Screenshot of video showing a conflict between journalists and electoral sector officials in Yerevan on January 10
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan has criticized a by-election for an Armenian parliament seat and urged authorities to prosecute those responsible for numerous "irregularities" that were witnessed by U.S. and local observers, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Embassy spokesman Thomas Mittnacht told RFE/RL that U.S. observers saw "numerous irregularities, including intimidation of voters, verbal and physical threats directed at journalists and observers, and in some cases the presence of uncredentialed, nonvoting individuals sympathetic to the National Accord Party candidate who appeared to be managing the electoral process in lieu of the authorized members of the local electoral commissions."

The U.S. Embassy deployed the only international observer mission for the January 10 vote, which was held in a central Yerevan constituency on January 10.

Official results gave Ara Simonian of the pro-government National Accord Party 57 percent of the votes.

Jailed newspaper editor Nikol Pashinian, a senior member of the opposition Armenian National Congress, received 37.5 percent of the votes to finish second.

Pashinian and his party declared the election fraudulent and said they will seek to overturn the results in court.

A Yerevan district election commission that managed the poll annulled the official results in two precincts on January 14 after a recount showed that Pashinian had won the vote in those precincts.

Despite that, it still declared Simonian the official winner of the election. That decision was promptly endorsed by the Central Election Commission.

The district commission certified Simonian's disputed result one day before a legal deadline for the submission of written complaints from election candidates.

Commission Chairwoman Silva Markosian told RFE/RL that "we are summing up things based on the facts which we have at the moment."

U.S. monitors were similarly critical of the Armenian government's conduct during municipal elections in Yerevan in May.

The criticism was one reason why the U.S. government decided to cut $67 million in additional economic assistance promised to Yerevan.