Citizen observers: serious shortcomings observed during parliamentary campaign in Armenia
Shortly before the election day, Citizen Observer Initiative and Independent Observer Public Alliance together with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) presented their findings on the monitoring of the pre-election campaign. They also announced their action plan for the election day on 2 April.
Varuzhan Hoktanyan, Programme Director at Transparency International Anticorruption Center drew attention to the fact that voting day is only a part of electoral process. Despite some changes in the election law, including the public display of voters lists and the video recording in polling stations, observers cannot be optimistic that they would make a big difference to the entire election process.
Lousine Hakobyan, President of the Europe in Law Association Human Rights, was concerned about the lack of adequate electorate education. According to Hakobyan, the Central Election Commission issued explanations to the new electoral code shortly before the election day which apparently change the previously adopted regulations. Those changes may confuse the voters few days before polling.
Daniel Ioannisyan, Programs Director of the Union of Informed Citizens and representative of the Independent Observer Public Alliance informed that 4000 independent observers including mobile groups will be covering 1800 polling stations all over Armenia. The Helsinki Committee of Armenia, the Independent Observer Public Alliance and Citizen Observer Initiative thus cover 90% of the polling stations and 97% of the electorate in monitoring compliance with the new electoral code and constitution. However, Ioannisyan warned that recommendations from civil society had not been taken adequately into consideration in the reform of the legislation and regulations from Central Election Commission, raising doubts about the sincerity of many of the changes.
Artur Sakunts, head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor NGO listed some of the violations that have already taken place in the campaigning period. He warned that the violations so far already give sufficient reason to doubt the fairness of the elections, and that not enough has been done by the authorities to increase trust in the general population, in particular by the Central Election Commission CEC.
Levon Barseghyan, Head of the Journalists’ Club Asparez based in Gyumri encouraged the audience to follow the updates on the Map of Violations that will be regularly updated directly from the observers in the field. The map is easily accessible online and will provide a great overview of which violations in which regions are most widespread on election day.
Adam Busuleanu, coordinator of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), condemned the refusal of the CEC to invite international non-governmental election monitoring organizations to observe the election day proceedings on 2 April. The authorities rejected the request of the EPDE and other citizen observers groups explaining that a high number of international election observers was already accredited. This explanation contradicts international obligations of Armenia as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. EPDE as well as other international election observation groups were eventually accredited as representatives of domestic observation groups or local media which is conform with the new election law.
The EPDE is a network of experienced European non-governmental organisations that carry out and support domestic election observation in Easter and Western Europe. In Armenia, EPDE supports its members Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center and the Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor and cooperates with other widely recognized, non-partisan election observation organisations.