Armenian opposition chief starts hunger strike over election results

Armenian opposition chief starts hunger strike over election results

YEREVAN - Reuters
Armenian opposition chief starts hunger strike over election results

Raffi Hovannisian. REUTERS Photo

Former Armenian presidential candidate Raffi Hovannisian began a hunger strike on March 10 calling on President Serzh Sarksyan to resign, accusing him of rigging his re-election last month.

Hovannisian, leader of the opposition Heritage Party took 37 percent of the vote in the Feb. 18 election while Sarksyan was declared the victor with 58.6 percent. Hovannisian objected and filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court.

“This is not just a hunger strike, but a boycott against lies and fraud,” Hovannisian told hundreds of his supporters at a rally in the capital Yerevan’s central Freedom square.

“If on April 9 (inauguration day) Sarksyan takes his fake oath on the Constitution and the Holy Bible and the Supreme Patriarch … blesses the candidate, who mocks the people, then that will happen over my dead body,” he said.

Hovannisian, a U.S.-born former foreign minister of the landlocked ex-Soviet republic, submitted 70 complaints to the electoral commission, which responded by saying the documents were based neither on facts nor legal evidence.

The Constitutional Court was scheduled to consider Hovannisian’s complaint yesterday. The central election commission said last month there were no legal violations during the vote that could have influenced the outcome.

International election monitors said the poll was an improvement from previous ones but that it still lacked real competition after some of Sarksyan’s adversaries decided not to run, fearing the results would be skewed.

Since the election, the opposition has held several peaceful rallies to protest against alleged vote rigging.

Investors worry about any signs of instability in the South Caucasus state, where 10 people were killed in violence that followed Sarksyan’s initial election in 2008.