Saturday, Constitutional Court Upholds Armenian Election Results Armenia - The Constitutional Court announces its decision to reject opposition appeals against official results of the June 20 parliamentary elections, Yerevan, . Armenia’s Constitutional Court on Saturday rejected opposition demands to overturn official results of the June 20 parliamentary elections which gave victory to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s party. The court upheld the vote results in response to separate appeals lodged by opposition alliances led by former Presidents Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian and two smaller groups that failed to win any seats in the Armenian parliament. The four opposition forces alleged serious irregularities which seriously affected the election outcome. In particular, they accused Pashinian of abusing his government levers, bullying opposition activists and resorting to “hate speech” during the election campaign and forcing military and security personnel to vote for his ruling Civil Contract party. Opposition representatives presented what they called evidence of the alleged violations during court hearings on the appeals that began on July 9 and lasted for six days. The Constitutional Court also questioned representatives of the Central Election Commission, the Armenian government and Pashinian’s Civil Contract party. They all dismissed the opposition allegations as baseless. Pashinian and his political allies maintain that the snap elections were free and fair, pointing to their largely positive assessment by European election observers. The latter concluded in a preliminary report that the vote was “competitive and generally very well-managed.” The court’s refusal to cancel the vote results was announced by its chairman, Arman Dilanian. He said the ruling will be fully publicized in due course. It was not immediately clear whether all of the court’s nine judges agreed with the decision. Five of them, including Dilanian, took the bench after the 2018 “velvet revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. Representatives of Kocharian’s Hayastan alliance and Sarkisian’s Pativ Unem bloc said they expected such a ruling. They claimed that it was handed down under strong government pressure. According to the CEC, Pashinian’s party won 53.9 percent of the vote, followed by Hayastan that got just over 21 percent. Pativ Unem came in a distant third with 5.2 percent. None of the 22 other parties and blocs that participated in the polls did well enough to be represented in the new National Assembly. Citing a complex legal formula, the CEC has given 71 parliament seats to Civil Contract, compared with 29 and 7 seats to be held by Hayastan and Pativ Unem respectively. The two opposition forces challenged not only the official results but also the distribution of the 107 parliament seats, saying that it unfairly benefits the ruling party. EU’s Michel Reaffirms Hefty Aid Package For Armenia Armenia - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and European Council President Charles Michel arrive for a news conference after holding talks in Yerevan, July 17, 2021. European Council President Charles Michel reaffirmed on Saturday the European Union’s pledge to provide Armenia with up to 2.6 billion euros ($3.1 billion) in economic assistance and investments over the next five years. Visiting Yerevan, Michel said the “unprecedented financial package” is designed to help the Armenian government continue “democratic reforms” and improve the socioeconomic situation in the country. The hefty sum is part of an “economic and investment plan” drafted by the European Commission for six ex-Soviet republics covered by the EU’s Eastern Partnership program. The EU’s executive body said earlier this month that it has asked the bloc’s 27 member states to approve the plan, potentially worth 17 billion euros in “public and private investments,” at an Eastern Partnership summit slated for December. The commission is specifically seeking 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion) in EU grants, loans and loan guarantees for five “flagship initiatives” drawn up by it for Armenia. That includes up to 500 million euros in funding for some 30,000 small and medium-sized enterprises and 600 million euros worth of capital investments in the country’s transport infrastructure. EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi announced in Yerevan on July 9 that the EU will also raise an additional 1 billion euros for Armenia “together with our international partners.” Michel, who heads the EU’s top decision-making body, said the projects to be financed by the grants and loans reflect the Armenian government’s socioeconomic priorities. “I do not underestimate the huge work that will be needed in order to implement and … make this huge financial package very concrete and very visible for the [small and medium-sized enterprises] and for the people,” he told reporters after holding talks with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Pashinian again hailed the promised EU funding, saying that it will give a “very serious impetus to Armenia’s economic development.” Michel arrived in Yerevan on Friday evening on the first leg of his tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. He said he is visiting the three ex-Soviet states to underscore “the EU’s commitment to this region.” “We want to reinforce links between the countries of this region and the European Union,” added the former Belgian prime minister. Azerbaijan Accused Of Planning Truce Violations • Sargis Harutyunyan Armenia - A soldier at a new Armenian army post on the border with Azerbaijan, June 16, 2021. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian accused Azerbaijan on Saturday of avoiding peace talks with Armenia and planning instead to provoke renewed fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. “Armenia is prepared for the resumption of negotiations but there has been no reaction from Azerbaijan,” Pashinian said after talks with visiting European Council President Charles Michel. “And according to information obtained from unofficial sources, Azerbaijan is intent on provoking new military clashes in Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. We are now seeing manifestations of that at a Nakhichevan section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,” he told a joint news conference with Michel. Pashinian referred to recent days’ shootouts between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces deployed near an Armenian village bordering Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave. One Armenian soldier was killed there on Wednesday. The Armenian military said Azerbaijani troops again opened fire on Friday at its border posts in the area about 70 kilometers south of Yerevan. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has blamed the Armenian side for the skirmishes which have also left at least one Azerbaijani soldier wounded. The skirmishes came amid a continuing military standoff along other sections of the frontier where Azerbaijani troops reportedly advanced several kilometers into Armenian territory in May. The situation in the conflict zone was a major theme of Pashinian’s talks with Michel, the European Union’s top official who arrived in Yerevan on the first leg of his tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Michel, who is scheduled to meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Sunday, called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to pull back their troops from “contested” sections of their border and embark on its demarcation. He also urged the two warring nations to avoid inflammatory rhetoric, explore “possible cooperation projects” and restart talks on resolving the Karabakh conflict. Aliyev again claimed on Wednesday that Baku “unilaterally” ended the dispute with its victory in the six-week war stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire last November. Pashinian dismissed the claim. The Armenian premier on Saturday reaffirmed his support for the idea of troop disengagement also backed by the United States. Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2021 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.