YEREVAN (A.W.)—On April 19, Armenia’s Special Investigative Service (SIS) launched a criminal investigation into the 40-minute recording of what is believed to be a staff meeting held by businessman Artak Sargsyan’s senior aides.
In the recording that was published by Yerevan-based news outlet Hayastan24 on April 13, an unknown man can be heard threatening to fire employees of Sargsyan’s SAS supermarket chain who fail to guarantee in writing that their friends and families will vote for Sargsyan—a Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) candidate—in Armenia’s 2017 Parliamentary Elections.
Sargsyan, who kept his seat in Parliament following the election, has not commented on the matter. Sargsyan has held his seat since 2004 and has not made any public statements on the Parliament floor for at least five years.
The SIS has not yet mentioned who will be charged or questioned in the investigation.
Sargsyan and other RPA candidates had already faced allegations of bullying their employees and bribing voters for electoral purposes.
The SIS has also formally charged a man with assaulting a correspondent of RFE/RL’s Armenian service during the Parliamentary Elections.
The incident took place when journalist Sisak Gabrielyan noticed that many voters from Yerevan’s Kond neighborhood were visiting the local campaign office of the RPA prior to going to their polling stations and casting their ballots. Some of them even had cash in their hands as they left the office, according to RFE/RL Armenian service.
Those working at the RPA offices denied giving vote bribes to any of the local residents when Gabrielyan asked. Gabrielyan also saw a long list of people containing their passports, addresses, and signatures. RPA office workers then forced him to leave the office. Some hit him and attempted to take his mobile phone, with which he was recording.
On April 19, the SIS announced that Gabrielyan was assaulted by a man identified as Levon Gasparyan. The statement said that Gasparyan obstructed “legitimate professional activities of a journalist” and was charged under a Criminal Code article dealing with election-related violence. If convicted, he can face up to five years in prison.
The statement also said that Gasparyan was headed to the Kond polling station when he spotted Gabrielyan and demanded he stop filming. The statement did not say anything about Gasparyan’s potential connections to the RPA.
Armenian opposition and civil groups have used both these events to highlight further proof of the RPA using administrative and financial resources to win the Parliamentary Elections.