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Armenian Election Observer Slams Russian Elections

Armenian parliament deputy Zaruhi Postanjian
Armenian parliament deputy Zaruhi Postanjian
YEREVAN -- An Armenian opposition deputy has called Russia's controversial parliamentary elections "undemocratic" and criticized Armenia's government for welcoming the results, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Zaruhi Postanjian of the opposition Heritage party monitored the elections on December 4 along with other international observers from the Council of Europe. Postanjian said she visited two dozen polling stations in Moscow on election day and witnessed serious violations in most of them.

"Voting was open," Postanjian told RFE/RL. "People could come and vote in groups. The most interesting things occurred when they started counting ballots."

Postanjian said at one polling station nearly half of some 600 ballots cast for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party were tied or folded together. She said that is evidence of ballot stuffing.

"Commission members realized that we noticed [the tied together ballots]," she said. "They said, 'Well, people came and voted with families, it's customary here.'"

Official election results showed United Russia winning almost half of the vote, just about enough to retain its majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. The Russian government says the vote was free and fair.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called the election flawed, however, reporting serious problems in the counting process. Its election-monitoring mission said the contest was slanted in favor of Putin's party.

But Artak Davtian, a parliament deputy from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia who also took part in the OSCE observer mission, insisted on December 9 that he witnessed no serious irregularities in any of the 12 Moscow precincts he visited. He said there were only minor "technical problems" in some of them.

Davtian also dismissed Postanjian's criticism of the Kremlin's handling of the polls.

"Frankly, I would be surprised if Ms. Postanjian expressed a different opinion because this is what she always says," he told RFE/RL. "That is her right. I respect her right to express an opinion but I don't agree with it."

Both President Serzh Sarkisian and Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian have congratulated United Russia in separate letters to their Russian counterparts.

Postanjian found that ironic. She claimed the Armenian government itself has failed to hold elections that have been widely recognized as free and fair.

"Since our authorities were also not elected in legitimate ways, they showed solidarity on that front," she said. "One illegitimate government congratulated another one."

Read more in Armenian here