YEREVAN—Armenia’s Education Ministry said Monday that it is investigating claims by an Armenian civic organization, which published recordings from public school officials from throughout the country admitting to alleged illegal pressuring of their staff and students’ parent to vote for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia in the upcoming April 2 Parliamentary elections.
Azatutyun.am reported Friday that a member of the Union of Informed Citizens, posing as a Republican Party of Armenia member, telephoned the directors of 136 schools and kindergartens in and outside Yerevan. It said 114 of them admitted drawing up lists of children’s parents as well as schoolteachers and kindergarten staff who pledged to back the RPA in the April 2 elections.
The UIC claimed that according to the conversations with the school officials, the lists were submitted to local government bodies or RPA campaign offices. The UIC also released on social media what it claimed to be the recordings of the conversations with the school officials.
“We phoned all administrative districts in Yerevan and all provinces,” the UIC’s Daniel Ioannisian told a news conference, according to Azatutyun.am. “More than 80 percent of school and kindergarten directors admitted that they submitted such lists for the Republican Party and gave details of those lists.”
On Monday, Lusine Margarsyan, a spokesperson for Armenia’s Education Ministry, said on her Facebook page that deputy education minister, Manuk Mkrtchyan, has tasked school officials named in the UIC claim to provide clarification.
Margaryan also said that the ministry has sent notifications to all governors and the Yerevan City Hall clarifying the illegality of involving educational institutions from political processes.
Margaryan also highlighted Armenia’s education minister Levon Mkrtchyan’s February 22 proposal to governors and Yerevan City Hall to set strict guidelines for members of the education field to get involved in the elections without violating the framework of the law. Mkrtchyan, who is a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, is on leave from his post in order to campaign for the parliamentary elections, for which he is a candidate from the ARF bloc.
The RPA’s election headquarters called the UIC report “dishonest,” saying that engaging potential voters was part of the campaign process.
Meanwhile the office of Armenia’s Ombudsman—human rights defender—expressed concern over the UIC allegations and announced on Monday that it had appealed to the Central Electoral Committee for clarification.
The Ombudsman’s office reported that Armenia’s Prosecutor’s Office has already begun an investigation. The Ombudsman’s office said that it will follow up to ensure that criminal charges are initiated where applicable.