Opposition Alleges Irregularities in Armenian Polls
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||11 May 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CRS Issue 641|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Opposition Alleges Irregularities in Armenian Polls, 11 May 2012, CRS Issue 641, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fb245a02.html [accessed 19 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Armenian opposition parties, which collectively polled about a quarter of the vote in the May 6 parliamentary election, have alleged electoral fraud. However, analysts say their complaints may be undermined by their decision to take up their seats, which could be seen as a de facto to recognition of the result.
The opposition Armenian National Congress, ANC, headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, won just seven per cent of the vote. It announced on May 8 that it would be seeking an annulment of the results at the Constitutional Court.
Despite this, Nikol Pashinyan, a senior figure in the party, said those elected would still enter parliament.
Alexander Iskandaryan, director of the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan, said the implication was that "the ANC agrees to work with other parties, including the [winning] Republican Party".
The Republican Party, headed by President Serzh Sargsyan, won 44 per cent of the vote, while Prosperous Armenia, part of the governing coalition until now, came second with 30 per cent. The ANC came third, followed by the Dashnaktsutyun, Rule of Law and Heritage parties.
The ANC's complaints include the fact that President Sargsyan played a leading role in campaigning for his Party. The ANC argues that this was unconstitutional.
International observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said that campaigning was "competitive, vibrant and largely peaceful".
"The elections were held under an improved legal framework and administered in an overall professional and transparent manner prior to election day," the OSCE monitoring team said. "Election day was generally calm and peaceful, but marked by organisational problems and undue interference in the process, mostly by party representatives."
The statement did, however, point out that the ruling party used its control of the state apparatus to deliver votes to itself, for instance by recruiting schoolteachers and pupils for campaign events. They also pointed out instances of what appeared to be electoral bribery with gifts and food.
"Multigroup, a company belonging to [Prosperous Armenia] leader Gagik Tsarukyan, distributed some 500 tractors during the campaign period. The project was mainstreamed into [the party's] campaign," the statement said, noting that "electoral contestants and associated charitable organisations are prohibited from providing or promising goods and services to voters during the campaign period". (For more on this issue, see Armenian Parties Make Lavish Jobs and Pay Pledges.)
The Armenian prosecutor's office has opened three criminal cases relating to alleged instances of electoral bribery, one of them in reference to the Shengavit constituency in Yerevan. Journalist Gohar Veziryan was running for election there, and she accused her opponent from Prosperous Armenia of paying off voters.
Another case related to a constituency in Arabkir district, where Armen Matevosyan, also of Prosperous Armenia, was detained in possession of 380,000 drams and a notebook containing voters' names.
"These are just evil machinations which we will deal with. We will show that nothing like that happened," Naira Zohrabyan, head of Prosperous Armenia's campaign team, said.
Analysts said electoral bribes undoubtedly had an effect on the final outcome.
"Armenia does not have a mechanism for holding elections. The authorities will always falsify the results until society tells them not to," Manvel Sargsyan, director of the Armenian Centre for National and International Studies, said.
Another complaint from the ANC was that a stamp placed in voters' passports, which was supposed to be indelible for 12 hours to prevent repeat voting, could in fact be erased after only an hour or two. Both Heritage and the ANC appealed to the election commission on these grounds.
The commission said that from now on, it will use indelible ink that remains in voters' passports forever.
The website www.iditord.am, created to register violations of electoral procedure, was targeted by hacker attacks on election day, meaning it was unavailable for several hours. However, it has still gathered 1,000 allegations of breaches of the election law.
Many journalists reported that they were not able to operate freely at polling stations. Nelli Babayan of the Aravot newspaper said three men took her phone from her at a polling station in the Davitashen district after she filmed an argument between representatives of the Republican and Heritage parties.
"They told me not to film and rudely took my phone away from me. Only after I argued with them did they return it," she said.
Elina Chilingaryan, a reporter for Radio Liberty, told a similar story. She said a group of young people broke her video camera after she filmed at a polling station in Yerevan's Erebuni district.
Despite the criticism, which was certainly milder than in past elections, the winning Republican Party said the election showed that Armenia was a democracy.