Dashnak Leader Warns Of Election Bloodshed

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
Feb 22 2005

Dashnak Leader Warns Of Election Bloodshed

A leading member of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(Dashnaktsutyun) warned on Monday failure to ensure the freedom and
fairness of Armenia’s forthcoming local elections could spark armed
clashes between supporters of rival candidates.

Armen Rustamian, the number one figure in the leadership of
Dashnaktsutyun’s Armenia branch, said the authorities should
therefore reform the electoral legislation and speed up the country’s
broader democratization.

`If we fail to deepen electoral reforms to the extent required by
international standards, we could witness very sad results. In
particular, clashes in local constituencies,’ he told RFE/RL,
referring to the local polls slated for October.

He said those clashes could be as serious as a February 4 gunfight
between two business clans in Yerevan that left at least one person
dead and several others wounded. It was the most massive shootout
reported in Armenia in years. Dozens of its participants have
reportedly been arrested or questioned by the police.

Dashnaktsutyun, which is a junior partner in President Robert
Kocharian’s coalition government, has for months been lobbying for
sweeping amendments to Armenia’s Election Code. It is particularly
pushing for a sizable increase in the number of parliament seats
contested under the system of proportional representation.

The nationalist party is also looking to increase its presence in
local government bodies. No Armenian city or town is currently
controlled by it.

Rustamian argued that electoral reform is essential for accelerating
the `slow course’ of democratic reforms, echoing concerns expressed
by other Dashnaktsutyun leaders in recent months. They went as far as
to threaten to quit the ruling coalition.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress