Leo Platvoet

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Elections in Armenia

Plenary debate 25 June 2007

document nr. 11312

The preliminary findings and conclusions of the international election observing missions on the elections in Armenia were that improvements were made compared with previous elections, which were strongly criticised by the international community. The authorities understood very well that those elections held on 12 May were a crucial touchstone for Armenia to demonstrate its political will to organise real, democratic elections in line with the commitments it undertook when Armenia became a member state of this Organisation.

These were the improvements: a more balanced composition of election commissions on each level; a more balanced coverage in the media of the activities of the different parties; the staff of polling stations were better trained; and for the first time there was a central, computerised voters list.

During election day, voting took place in a mostly calm atmosphere, as was observed at the vast majority 94% of the observed polling stations, although there were of course some problems, as we all know. Previously there were widespread rumours of vote-buying and other means of fraud. However, during election day only two cases were identified, although some of our observers had a strong feeling that more was wrong than could be proved.

The counting of the votes was a very complicated and bureaucratic procedure which took many hours. Many of the international observers were not able to fulfil their mission until the final protocol was made up. As far as the counting was concerned, more problems were observed. In 20% of the observed polling stations, the commissions had problems with completing the protocols, and significant errors were reported in 8% of cases.

Due to the slow counting procedure at the polling station level, the conclusions of the observation of the tabulation of the votes at the higher levels could not be taken into account for the joint statement at the press conference. It is very regrettable that during the tabulation process the situation deteriorated. The conduct of tabulation was assessed negatively in 35% of the observed territorial election commissions. That is an unacceptably high figure.

The publishing of the results on the internet was very slow, especially those in Yerevan, where there was a gap of eight hours between the completion of the tabulation at the level of precinct election commission and publishing on the Internet. The final results were announced by the Central Election Commission a week after election day. Three members of that CEC, all members of opposition parties, refused to sign the final results protocol.

Which conclusions are to be drawn and which proposals are to be made? I shall mention only some. The shortcomings and irregularities during the crucial vote count and tabulation process cast a dark shadow over the preliminary positive assessment. Improvements in the Election Code have still to be made, especially in relation to the complaints and appeals procedure. The big problems at the territorial election commission level not only undermine public confidence in the electoral process but fuel the flames of the rumours of fraud. Immediate publication on the Internet of the precinct election commission results is necessary to guarantee transparency. Legal measures should be taken to ensure transparency of party and campaign financing, and to avoid business money ruling the elections.