Reflecting on the Mayoral and City Council elections in Yerevan, Armenia
The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) organized an online discussion on Monday, 18 September at 1pm CEST (3pm Yerevan time), to reflect on the Mayoral and City Council elections which were held on Sunday, 17 September.
14 candidates ran for the seat of Mayor of Yerevan which had been vacant since Hrachya Sargsyan stepped down in March 2023 after less than two years in office.
With more than a third of the Armenian population living in the capital, the Mayoral and City Council elections in Yerevan are of the highest national interest and shape developments for the whole country.
It was a heated election campaign and observers report on active use of administrative resources during the run-up to Voting Day. Observers are critical over the response of the Central Election Commission to reported violations.
With our experts and EPDE platform members Sona Ayvazyan (Transparency International Anticorruption Center (TIAC)) and Vardine Grigoryan (Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor (HCAV)) as well as Genya Petrosyan (Law Development and Protection Foundation) we discussed some first findings of their election monitoring:
Low Voter Turnout
The elections witnessed a low voter turnout, with only 28.5% of eligible voters casting their ballots. This may indicate a sense of disappointment, lack of trust, and disengagement among the electorate. The seat of elected Mayor had been vacant since former Mayor Hrachya Sargsyan resigned in March 2023, which was a move that was widely seen as a way for his party civil contract to try to boost their candidate Tigran Avinian in the run-up to the vote.
Violations during the Campaign Period
Several major violations were observed during the campaign period, particularly related to the misuse of administrative resources by the ruling party. Instances of bringing in people to vote, including teachers, administrative workers, and ministry representatives, were reported. Additionally, there were cases of potential control or attempts to control voting participation by different political parties.
Fairness of Election Day
Despite concerns about the campaign period, the election day itself was generally assessed as peaceful and without systemic violations. The preparation of the voting process, actual voting, and summarization of results followed the procedures provided by electoral law. However, occasional violations were recorded, such as improper following of procedures by polling station commissions.
Trust in Election Results
The crash of the Central Election Commission website during the announcement of results raised questions about public trust in the election outcome. However, it should be noted that observers had monitored a significant number of polling stations (around 20%) and witnessed the tabulation process, which provided confidence in the accuracy of results.
Starting from this year, there is also the option of people with disabilities or mobility issues to change their polling station and work both in a polling station that is more accessible. However, the documentation process of the accessibility of polling stations is not sufficient and there is currently no electronic way to change your polling stations. People with impaired mobility have to attend a police or passport station in order to apply for a change of polling place.
Novelties in Electoral Legislation
The 2023 Yerevan municipal elections were put into practice for the first time. The experts confirmed the satisfactory conduct of electronic candidate registration as well as the electronic registration of observers and monitoring organizations. The electronic registration provides more flexibility which is key in organizing observation missions.
Another novelty is the regulation prohibiting campaign finance payments made in cash to increase transparency in electoral finances. However, a lack of implementation was noted by the experts citing candidates not knowing whether they even had a campaign account. Similar lack of knowledge was observed in the requirements for printed materials.
The municipal elections in Yerevan, Armenia, were marked by low voter turnout and instances of violations during the campaign period. The misuse of administrative resources by the ruling party was a concern, although not to the extent of previous elections. The election day itself was generally considered free and fair, with no major systemic violations observed.
However, there is a need for further improvements in the training and knowledge of poll workers and the regulation of campaign activities. The same goes for the lack of competencies among candidates and their parties regarding the regulation requirements. Some of the violations recorded did not occur out of intent but out of lack of knowledge.
Sona Ayvazyan, Executive Director at Transparency International Anticorruption Center (TIAC)
Vardine Grigoryan, Democracy Monitoring and Reporting Coordinator at Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor (HCAV)
Genya Petrosyan, co-founder and the director at Law Development and Protection Foundation
Moderater: Mark Dovich, Reporter, CivilNetTV
Time: 1-2.30 PM CEST (3-4.30pm local time)
Date: Monday, 18 September
Format: Online (facebook)