Investigation Raises Concerns Over Campaign Finance in Armenia’s Civil Contract Party

Investigation Raises Concerns Over Campaign Finance in Armenia’s Civil Contract Party

A recent investigative report has raised concerns about the legality of the financing behind the electoral campaigns of Armenia’s ruling Civil Contract party.

The inquiry, conducted jointly by and the international Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), indicates potential violations of Armenia’s campaign finance regulations by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s party.

According to the investigation, numerous purported donors to Civil Contract were unaware of substantial sums contributed on their behalf ahead of the 2022 local elections across Armenian regions. Despite the party’s claim of raising approximately 170 million drams ($420,000) from 140 individuals, a significant portion of whom were party candidates, interviews conducted by Civilnet revealed discrepancies.

Out of 31 interviewed individuals, 15 denied making any campaign donations, while others either evaded the question or cited being too busy to respond. Notably, instances emerged where candidates allegedly contributed identical amounts on the same day in various Armenian towns, raising suspicions of orchestrated donations. Furthermore, some donations exceeded the legal limit set for individual contributions.

Mkrtich Karapetian, co-author of the investigation, characterized Civil Contract’s fundraising as potentially organized and illicit, while election expert Vardine Grigorian suggested it could be aimed at concealing the true origin of the funds, possibly from oligarchs.

These revelations come in light of campaign finance legislation introduced by Pashinyan’s government in 2021, aiming to curb political donations and separate business interests from politics. Critics allege that Civil Contract may have orchestrated dubious donations to bypass these legal restrictions.

Despite these allegations, neither the ruling party nor the government has responded to the investigation. This follows similar questions raised by earlier, concerning substantial campaign donations received by Civil Contract ahead of municipal elections in Yerevan. Despite inquiries, Pashinyan has denied any lack of transparency within his party, while Armenian prosecutors have declined to investigate the matter further.