Tag Archives: vote-buying

On 15 June, the Council of Europe organised the “Electoral Developments in Armenia: Lessons Learned and Steps Ahead” conference as part of the “Long-term election related stakeholders of Armenia” project. This project is funded by the European Union and Council of Europe Programmatic Co-operation Framework (PCF) in the Eastern Partnership Countries for 2015-2017.
The PCF is being implemented in two phases: 2015‑2017 and 2018-2020. The budget for the first implementation phase is €33.8 million. The PCF is 90% funded by the European Union and 10% by the Council of Europe (CoE). CoE is the implementer.
The objective of the conference was to examine the organisation and management of the recent local (2016), parliamentary (April 2017) and Yerevan Council (May 2017) elections in Armenia, to what extent they complied with international standards, and how electoral processes could be further improved. The opening speeches were delivered by the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr Świtalski, Head of the CoE office in Yerevan, Natalia Voutova, and the Chair of Armenian Central Electoral Commission, Tigran Mukuchyan.

DSC_6861Ambassador Świtalski highlighted the importance of examining the election process: ‘We have expressed our preliminary opinion about the last elections as the EU. Like everyone we are now waiting for the final report of the OSCE/ODIHR on the April parliamentary elections. After it we may also publish our additional comments. The drafting of the new Electoral Code stemming from the new Constitution was conducted in an unprecedented consultative manner which is a positive development – ruling coalition negotiated the Code with three opposition parties and some civil society representatives.
It is important to start discussions, to present experience, lessons learned and outline future actions. No one can say that after the elections Armenia’s democratic standards are already perfect – achieving that is a long-term process. The next elections, which will be a long time from now, should be conducted in a more satisfactory way.
We need to acknowledge that the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) has effectively implemented the technical aspects – voter authentication devices – which were funded by the EU with contributions from its Member States UK and German (in total 90 % of the cost) and the US. These devices worked very well and helped to prevent multiple voting.
For the future, I have three key messages/recommendations: 1) To improve the Electoral Code and other pieces of legislation in consensus with all stakeholders (parliamentary parties and civil society); 2) To increase credibility of electoral institutions: notably of the CEC and increase independence of judiciary and political neutrality of the law enforcement bodies; 3) work on addressing shortcomings that happen before and after Election Day, i.e. such as those identified by the OSCE/ODIHR in its Preliminary Opinion – vote buying, abuse of administrative resources, and intimidation of public and private sectors´ employees.”

DSC_6990Mr Tigran Mukuchyan prioritised focusing on the positive aspects of the election process: ‘There is no need to exaggerate and make an emphasis on 1.5% failure and fail to mention 98.5% achievements. No one is saying that we should not criticise or point out the shortcomings; however, it must be acknowledged that we have made a step forward, which will be evaluated in detail. Public perception in the post-election period is an excellent evidence of this’.

DSC_6845Ms Natalia Voutova expressed her gratitude to the EU Delegation to Armenia and other partners for supporting the project: ‘2017 has been a very important year in terms of conducting elections in Armenia, particularly as they were based on the new Constitution and the new Electoral Code. We are looking forward to work with the Armenian authorities and Armenian civil society as we move forwards’.

The “Public Oversight over Parliamentary Elections 2017” project will help to conduct a comprehensive domestic observation mission during the 2017 parliamentary elections in Armenia and will involve more than 3,000 election observers. The project is funded by the European Union and co-funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). It is being implemented by the Europe in Law Association and its partner Transparency International Anti-Corruption Centre – Armenia (TIAC). Those organisations together with the Journalists՚ Club Asbarez form the Citizen Observer Initiative.
On 24 February 2017, the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Piotr A. Świtalski, and members of the Citizen Observer Initiative held a press conference to present the EU-funded project activities and the importance of domestic observation of the electoral process.

ARS_8408During the press conference, the Ambassador Świtalski spoke about the EU’s support to the electoral process in Armenia: ‘Let me start with the figures to present the EU’s full engagement. The EU has allocated more than €7 million to support the implementation of different components of the political agreement between the ruling coalition and three opposition parties on the new Electoral Code. We have allocated almost €4 million to support the implementation of the new voter authentication technology; €2 million for the installation of video cameras and a live streaming of the election process from 1,500 polling stations (out of total 2,000); almost €400,000 to support programmes through the Council of Europe Office in Armenia and €370,000 through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights to support civil society observation through the Europe in Law Association and TIAC. These figures reflect only a part of what has been done. The EU has invested a lot of its political efforts to encourage the political actors to reach a compromise agreement. We are optimistic and believe that Armenia will have better elections than in the past, because we see increased political will among different stakeholders. There are several important points for the EU which need to be addressed. It is necessary to prevent the abuse of administrative resources, electoral corruption and bribery, vote-buying, and to provide equal opportunities for political parties, including access to media. It is also very important for the EU to remove obstacles to the work of domestic (in particular restrictive measures included in the Electoral Code) and international observers’.

ARS_8430Lusine Hakobyan, the Chairperson of the Europe in Law Association, presented the work done so far: ‘The Citizen Observer Initiative can observe about 75% of polling stations this year, as nearly 3,000 citizens have already registered. If there are other active citizens who wish to monitor the electoral process and make a change, you can still register to become observers. Then we will be able to observe all polling stations in Armenia’.

The registration and training process for election observers have already started through the Initiative’s web page (www.citizenobserver.am). Nearly 3,000 people have already been registered, of which 1,800 have already been trained by the Citizen Observer Initiative’s lawyers.
Other interested citizens can still join the initiative and monitor parliamentary elections to promote free, fair and transparent elections for the sake of a democratic Armenia. To become an observer, citizens need to fill in this registration form: http://citizenobserver.am/observers/registration. Those who pass two stages can become observers.
In addition to the observation mission, the initiative gives an opportunity to reveal cases of voting instead of you. If you or your relatives are not going to participate in the parliamentary elections for some reason, you can also register on theweb page beforehand (https://citizenobserver.am/en/elections/register) to compare the voters՚ lists after the elections and to reveal cases of electoral fraud.