2008 Presidential Election:
Select Issues and Analysis
A publication of Policy Forum Armenia
This report is a product of a collaborative effort of a group of PFA
The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent those of every
Neither the authors of this report nor its reviewers have received any
compensation for their contribution to the report.
Â© 2008 Policy Forum Armenia
Individual sections of this report are available for reprinting upon
Reprints must be properly acknowledged
Contact: [email protected]
Afghanistan Î? ArmeniaÎ? Finland Î? France Î? Ireland Î? Kuwait Î? Nigeria
SwitzerlandÎ? United Arab Emirates Î? United Kingdom Î? United States
Policy Forum Armenia
Policy Forum Armenia (PFA) is an independent professional non-profit
association aimed at strengthening discourse on Armenia’s economic
development and national security and through that helping to shape
public policy in Armenia. PFA has a hybrid mission, operating as a think
tank as well as an advocacy group. Its main objective is to offer
alternative views and professional analysis containing innovative and
practical recommendations for public policy design and implementation.
Through its activities, PFA aims to contribute to the creation of an
informed public and more effective and accountable government. PFA’s
main asset is its worldwide network of professionals and leaders in
their respective fields, with dedication to Armenia.
PFA has a hybrid mission.It primarily operates as a think tank, since
its output will comprise of expert assessments and analysis using latest
social science research methodologies and will benefit from scholarly
exchange. In addition, to the extent that the PFA would advocate for,
and have impact on, the social change in Armenia and the Diaspora, it
would also function as an advocacy organization.
We strive to build Armenia as a country and society where:
Governmentis transparent and fully trusted by its subjects; Its main
objective is the current and future well-being of citizens and nationals
abroad; Its members are equally accountable before the law in the same
manner as any other citizen of the country and have no direct commercial
Judiciaryis free, fair, and incorruptible.
Legislatureis competent and respectable.
Civil service is the most respected form of employment, because it
provides an opportunity to serve the country and people, and is highly
Societyhas high standards of living; It is well educated, tolerant, and
Economyis at the frontier of progress and innovation, building upon the
human capital of the Nation as a whole; It offers equal opportunities
for everyone; It does not tolerate unfair competition and redistributes
through efficient and fair taxation.
Environmentand responsible management of natural resources are essential
to the survival of the State, and are key elements of well-being of
Human rights are the most sacred set of values.
Citizens of Armenia – Armenians, Yezidis, Greeks, Kurds, Russians, and
others alike – are the most valuable asset of the State.
Armed Forces are by far the strongest in the region by spirit and
dedication of its men and women, by its advanced armament, and by
significance of its mission to protect life, history, and culture.
Diasporaand Armenia form a single entity, the Nation. Its stake in
Armenia and Armenia’s development are recognized and encouraged; Its
potential is fully internalized; Its members have dual Armenian
History is of essence. Future is where we aim.
Table of Contents
I. Introduction 7
II. Background 13
A. Overview of Past Elections in Armenia 13
B. Early 2008 Presidential Election Developments 16
C. Conclusion 18
I. Misuse of Administrative Resources, Vote Buying, and Other Examples
of Abuse of Power 20
A. Misuse of Administrative Resources 21
B. Vote Buying 22
C. Voter Intimidation and Other Types of Election Fraud 22
D. Response of the International Community 24
E. Conclusion 25
II. Statistical Analysis of the Official Election Outcome 26
A. Distribution of Voter Turnout 26
B. Distribution of Individual Candidates’ Votes 30
C. Relationship Between the Candidates’ Votes and Voter Turnout 33
D. Distribution of Invalid Ballots 38
E. Conclusion 42
III. Post-election Developments’Civil Society Awakening 44
A. Civil Society Activism Following the Events of March 1, 2008 46
B. Civil Society Responses to the Restrictions: Emerging Civil
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) 47
Non-NGO Civil Society 49
Virtual Civil Society: the Armenian Blogosphere 53
C. Conclusion 54
IV. Post-election Developments’The Way Out 56
A. On Post-Election Political Dynamics 56
B. Moving Forward 58
The official recount of the February 19, 2008 presidential election
resulted in Serge Sargsyan being declared the winner with 52.8 percent
of the vote. Levon Ter-Petrossian, Armenia’s first President and the
main opposition candidate came in second with 21.5 percent of the vote.
The opposition strongly disputed the official results, alleging
widespread violations, fraud, and instances of violence throughout the
election process. These events, which occurred during the campaign,
voting, and recount stages, were documented in a report by the
International Election Observer Mission of the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE, 2008a). The opposition has challenged
the results in the Constitutional Court.1
Irregularities discussed in the OSCE report include control over the
election administration by one political interest; blurring of the
separation between state and party functions; inequitable media
coverage; a tense pre-election environment, including attacks on
opposition campaign offices and activists; pressure and intimidation of
public-sector employees and the military; election bribes and
vote-buying; `bad’ or `very bad’ vote count, including deliberate
falsification of official results and derogation from protocol. While
the recount process confirmed some allegations of vote falsification,
the recounting took place only in select precincts with registered
complaints, allowing problems elsewhere to escape redress. Citing
election irregularities, the presidential candidate from
ARF-Dashnaktsutiun (ARF-D), Vahan Hovannisyan, stepped down as the
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.
Daily peaceful rallies in Yerevan’the legality of which was questioned
by the authorities’followed, reportedly drawing hundreds of thousands of
citizens who believed the election results were rigged and called for
their annulment. Discontent was strong and widespread.
Criticism over the government’s handling of the election grew from
within the ranks of Armenia’s civil service. Most notably, the list of
those who expressed their criticism included senior members of Armenia’s
Diplomatic Service, Ambassadors Ruben Shugaryan, Levon Khachatryan,
Armen Baiburtsyan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Vladimir
Karapetyan, and other MFA staffers. This criticism led to their
dismissal from public service and subsequent revocation of diplomatic
rank. In a parallel development, Armenia’s Deputy Prosecutor General and
a special investigator in charge of the October 27 case2 who had spoken
out in support of Ter-Petrossian, were arrested on unrelated charges.
The authorities also targeted a number of other members of the
opposition, their families and bodyguards through arrests, detentions
and searches, aimed at disrupting or intimidating the opposition and its
supporters. According to media reports, certain leaders of the
opposition have also been detained and subjected to searches of their
homes and the homes of their relatives.
Reprisals against opposition leaders and their supporters were carried
out by government law-enforcement agencies as well as criminal groups.
This created an atmosphere of fear among the citizenry and strengthened
the belief in `…a scripted and staged passing of power within the
country’s small ruling elite…’ (Giragossian and Hughes, 2008: 15).
Public servants were regularly forced to attend pro-Sargsyan
counter-rallies, the largest of which was organized and attended by the
top brass of the Republican Party on February 26. Not everything went
smoothly for the organizers on that day. Following extensive media
coverage and after busloads of supporters were trucked into Yerevan, the
event tumbled out of control. Large crowds of people broke the police
cordon of the pro-Sargsyan rally at the Republic Square in downtown
Yerevan, and moved in an organized fashion to the opposition rally at
Freedom Square, a few blocks away.
The response of the international community to Serge Sargsyan’s election
victory was lukewarm. Early congratulatory notes were received from
Presidents GÃ¼l (Turkey), Ahmadinejad (Iran), Lukashenko (Belarus),
Saakashvili (Georgia), among other leaders. The Russian President’s
press service reported that President Putin congratulated Sargsyan on
the election, though to the best of our knowledge the original text was
never made public. The European Union and NATO sent carefully drafted
congratulatory messages addressed to `the Armenian people’ rather than
to the president-elect. Despite reports in the government-controlled
media, it was impossible to independently verify the text of the message
sent by the French President Sarkozy. The French Embassy in Yerevan
neither admitted nor denied the existence of the message, and the
official website of President Sarkozy displayed no relevant information.
The United States President Bush is yet to offer any congratulations in
this regard. Further fallout for Armenia’s leadership followed in the
form of a final report by the International Election Observer Mission on
events around February 19, 2008, issued in late May (OSCE, 2008c).
While state authorities expressed their dissatisfaction with ongoing
rallies and indicated the possible use of force against the protesters,3
it was not until March 1 that such force was actually employed. At 6:35
AM, police stormed a few thousand demonstrators who had camped out
overnight in Freedom Square. Police alleged that demonstrators were
armed and preparing to riot. Many campers awoke to the violence. In a
recent report, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (HRD, 2008a) noted:
¦[T]he authorities should clarify some issues. Notably, who, when and
under what circumstances there was made a decision to disperse peaceful
demonstration by using force early in the morning of March 1, whether
the demonstrators were presented an official warning of corresponding
searching and whether the participants refused or resisted, and whether
the use of force was adequate to the situation.
To date, a number of these questions remain unanswered. The
International Crisis Group (ICG, 2008) reported on the events that
followed the early morning violent dispersal of demonstrators:
By around noon, several thousand people had gathered at a new location
not far from the city centre’near the mayor’s office and the French
Embassy. Riot troops were dispatched to the area, but demonstrators
blocked it off with several buses and debris, according to police. An
eyewitness said that by 3:00 PM the crowd had grown considerably, and a
police car had been set ablaze.
As pressures built and demonstrators grew more defiant, outgoing
president Kocharyan issued a 20-day State of Emergency (SOE), deploying
Army and Special Forces to the streets. In what followed, seven
civilians and a police officer were killed in the early hours of March
2. The SOE suspended some civil rights (e.g., right to assembly) and
media freedoms (partly lifted later during the SOE), allowing reporting
for state-run outlets only.
The following statement issued by the Heritage Party on March 17
describes the aftermath:
Deprived of their voice, the protesters began to lose their leaders. On
a daily basis, security personnel including masked men wearing various
uniforms took away or arrested opposition figures and rank-and-file
participants and proceeded to indict them on various creative charges up
to organizing a coup d’etat. Four members of Parliament who had dared to
endorse the opposition candidate were stripped of their immunity and
also charged. The intent of the special operation and ensuing state of
emergency was simple: to attempt to drive the Armenian people into fear
and to warn the Constitutional Court against any fantasies of reaching
an independent verdict. The brute tactics worked and the authorities,
once again, upheld in court the elections they wanted on February 19.
The legal process that followed these events focused mostly on the
supporters and the proxies of the main opposition candidate, casting
even further doubt on the independence of the judiciary in Armenia (HRD,
2008b). The seemingly rushed proceedings and harshness of punishments
for minor charges surprised some observers (HFAC, 2008, among others).4
Unfortunately, more injustice would be brought even on grieving families
who lost their loved ones in the violence of March 1-2. An independent
inquiry into post-election events conducted by a Paris-based association
of Armenian lawyers (Association FranÃ§aise des Avocats et Juristes
ArmÃ©niens, AFAJA)5 suggested that families of these victims were
subjected to various pressures [by the authorities] and were offered
money `to `turn the page’ and cover the funeral expenses.’
The authorities reject any accusations of wrongdoings on March 1 and in
the aftermath, and instead defend their actions on the grounds of
protecting the stability of the state in the face of an attempted coup
d’Ã©tat. In an article published on March 17 in the Washington Post,
Serge Sargsyan and Artur Bagdasaryan (a presidential candidate who was
later appointed by Sargsyan as the Secretary of the National Security
It was clear to all moderate political forces’pro-government or
supporters of the opposition’declaring a State of Emergency was the only
possible option to protect our citizens. We have until Thursday, when
the State of Emergency is lifted, to find political solutions and ensure
that Armenia does not slide back into chaos.
The opposition detainees vehemently deny attempting a coup d’Ã©tat and
claim that charges are politically motivated. The authorities,
therefore, must either present a credible case against the detained
opposition leaders or continue facing accusations of violent dispersal
of popular discontent and subsequent arrests of people for their
political views. In the meantime, in response to a statement by Serge
Sargsyan’s representative about the absence of political prisoners in
Armenia, the US Helsinki Commission’s Chairman Alcee Hastings’ remarks
during the hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives were as direct
as they could have been (US Helsinki Commission, 2008):
…If …, Mr. [Vigen] Sargsyan, … you tell me there are no political
prisoners [in Armenia], then I will tell you that you’re out of your
ever-loving mind, because there are.
As we finalize this report, dozens of opposition leaders and
rank-and-file members remain in custody. Unfortunately, there is very
little hope in the form of credible and independent due process to
protect these people against the will of their captors.
* * *
The most unexpected development following the February 19 election is
the measure of popular support for the opposition movement headed by
ex-president Ter-Petrossian. While Armenia has seen fraudulent elections
in the past, as discussed in Section II of this Report, none has driven
so many people and so much anger to the streets in a united desire for
change. In Section III of this Report we discuss evidence of misuse of
administrative resources, vote buying, voter intimidation, and other
examples of abuse of power to secure a specific outcome. Section IV
zooms in on ballot stuffing and artificial augmentation of vote counts
and shows that there is ample statistical evidence to indicate the
presence of these two types of manipulations. Highlighting the extent of
these types of manipulations’and contrary to the claims on both sides’
the methodology employed in this Report indicates that there was no
winner in the first round of the 2008 presidential election in Armenia.
However, since the election period also witnessed other types of
fraudulent activities (e.g., abuse of administrative resources, vote
buying, voter intimidation, etc., most of which were likely to have been
committed to benefit a certain candidate) we will never know what the
true distribution of votes would have been for the opposition candidates
in the absence of those illegal activities. This outcome also sheds some
light on the extent of the post-election dissatisfaction and
disaffection of a sizable portion of Armenia’s population. Whether these
frustrations fizzle out or result in a qualitative change in Armenia’s
course remains to be seen. Section V argues that Armenia is critically
positioned with a strong and empowered civil society and a determination
to realize meaningful change on a national scale. With an eye toward
stability and future developments, Section VI of the Report addresses
the principal challenge of the moment: to undertake credible
confidence-building measures (most notably independent inquiries into
February 19 and March 1-2 events) and genuinely attempt a dialogue with
the opposition, or face the future of a government for some Armenians
rather than of Armenia as a whole.
Overview of Past Elections in Armenia
The Referendum of Independence from the Soviet Union held in Armenia on
September 21, 1991 marked a new era in Armenia’s history. The Armenian
Supreme Council declared Armenia’s independence two days later. In
October 1991, the first parliamentary election took place and to date
that election is considered the most free and fair election in the
history of post-Soviet Armenia.
Armenia held parliamentary elections in 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007.
Presidential elections were held in 1991, 1996, 1998, 2003 and 2008.
OSCE/ODIHR has observed elections in Armenia since 1996 and has assessed
that all fall short of OSCE commitments and international standards for
democratic elections (OSCE, 2005).
1991 brought the first ever Presidential elections in Armenia. Levon
Ter-Petrossian, supported by the Armenian National Movement (ANM), was
declared the winner with 83 percent of the vote against six other
candidates, including the internationally-renowned dissident Paruir
Hairikyan of the Association for National Self-Determination, and Sos
Sargsyan of the ARF-D, a political party with strong roots in the
Elections to Armenia’s parliament, the National Assembly, were held in
June 1995, simultaneously with the first Constitutional Referendum in
which Armenia’s new Constitution was adopted. Observers from the OSCE
judged the elections "free but not fair." One of the reasons was that
the ARF-D, the main opposition party, was banned from participation
because the party had been outlawed by President Ter-Petrossian on
allegations of terrorism and receiving foreign funding.
The second presidential election turned out to be much more dramatic
than the first one. According to the official results, Ter-Petrossian
won reelection as president in September 1996, garnering 51.75 percent
of the vote. However, the opposition candidate Vazgen Manukyan, head of
the National Democratic Union (NDU) party, contested the victory,
charging widespread fraud, and organized a series of demonstrations. On
September 25, 1996, thousands of protesters stormed the National
Assembly building in Yerevan and assaulted the legislative speaker and
deputy speaker, both members of the ANM. Police dispersed the protesters
resulting in nearly 60 injured people (Amnesty International, 1996).
Parliamentary immunity was withdrawn from opposition MPs and several
were beaten and arrested. Police and armed troops started to patrol the
streets following a presidential SOE directive.
Ter-Petrossian’s tenure was to be short-lived, however, following
alleged internal disagreements surrounding a proposed resolution to the
Nagorno Karabakh (NK) conflict. In September 1997, Ter-Petrossian
announced that he had accepted an OSCE peace plan as a basis for
resolving the NK conflict that would require compromises from Armenia.
The two-stage plan called for NK Armenians to withdraw from most of the
territories they occupied outside of NK and for international
peacekeepers to be deployed, followed by discussions of the legal status
of NK. The announcement raised firm opposition from Armenian and NK
officials, as well as some members of the Diaspora community. On
February 1, 1998, Yerkrapah, a group composed of veterans of the NK
conflict and led by the country’s defense minister, called for
Ter-Petrossian to resign. Many members of Ter-Petrossian’s ANM
legislative faction defected, leading to the resignation of the
parliamentary speaker. Heated debate in the legislature culminated in
Ter-Petrossian’s resignation on February 3, 1998. Ter-Petrossian
denounced the "bodies of power" for demanding his resignation, referring
indirectly to the (then) Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, Defense
Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, and Minister of the Interior and National
Security Serge Sargsyan. Although the Constitution called for the
legislative speaker to assume the duties of the acting president pending
an election, the resignation of the speaker caused these duties to
devolve upon the prime minister. A special presidential election was
scheduled for March 16, 1998.
Twelve candidates succeeded in registering for the March presidential
election. The main contenders were Kocharyan, Vazgen Manukyan, and Karen
Demirchyan (head of the Armenian Communist Party from 1974 to 1988).
Since none of the candidates won the required simple majority "50
percent plus one" of the 1.46 million votes cast (in a 64 percent
turnout), a runoff election was held on March 30. In the runoff, acting
President and Prime Minister Kocharyan received 59.5 percent of 1.57
million votes cast (in a 68.5 percent turnout). The OSCE concluded that
"this election showed improvement in some respects over the 1996
election, but did not meet OSCE standards to which Armenia has committed
itself." Observers alleged ballot box stuffing, discrepancies in vote
counting, and fraud perpetrated by local authorities inflating the
number of votes for Kocharyan. Nevertheless, Kocharyan was inaugurated
on April 9, 1998. Following the parliamentary elections in 1999,
Demirchyan was appointed the speaker of the National Assembly and Vazgen
Sargsyan the prime minister.
On October 27, 1999, gunmen entered the building of the National
Assembly and opened fire on deputies and officials, killing Prime
Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and Speaker Karen Demirchyan, two deputy
speakers, and four others. The purported leader of the gunmen claimed
they were targeting the prime minister and were launching a coup to
"restore democracy" and end poverty. President Robert Kocharyan rushed
to the scene and helped negotiate the release of dozens of hostages,
promising the gunmen a fair trial. On that day, he lost the two main
challengers to his rule, who had by that time grown much more popular
and arguably even politically powerful than himself. Abiding by the
Constitution, the National Assembly met on November 2 and appointed
Armen Khachatryan (a member of the majority Unity bloc) as speaker, and
Kocharyan named Vazgen Sargsyan’s brother Aram the new prime minister,
seeking to preserve political balance. Political infighting intensified.
The military prosecutor investigating the assassinations detained a
presidential aide, appearing to implicate Kocharyan in the
assassinations. The Unity and Stability factions in the legislature also
threatened to impeach Kocharyan in April 2000. Seeking to counter
challenges to his power, Kocharyan, in May of that year, fired his prime
minister and defense minister. In October 2001, on the second
anniversary of the shootings in parliament, thousands of protesters
staged demonstrations in Yerevan to demand Kocharyan’s resignation. The
assassination trial concluded that there were no organizers and the four
people involved collaborated on their own initiative. For Armenia’s
civil society, many questions were left unanswered.
Presidential elections were next held on February 19, 2003, with no
candidate receiving 50 percent of the votes: Kocharyan received 48.3
percent of the vote, with Stepan Demirchyan’son of Karen Demirchyan, the
former parliamentary speaker assassinated in 1999’taking 27.4 percent of
the vote. Artashes Geghamyan came in third with 16.9 percent. A runoff
election between Kocharyan and Demirchyan scheduled for March 5 sealed
Kocharyan’s victory and allowed him to stay in power for another five
years. The opposition called the election fraudulent and said it would
not recognize the vote, and observers from OSCE declared the election
Box 1. April 12-13, 2004 Events1
In November 2003, the Rose Revolution in Georgia inspired the Armenian
opposition and in the early spring of 2004 it resumed its public
demonstrations. It was in this context that the opposition returned to
the 2003 Constitutional Court recommendation regarding the holding of a
confidence referendum that was supposed to have been held in March 2004.
While this decision had been reached by the Constitutional Court in
April 2003, over the course of the year the Court had subsequently
clarified its proposal and hence no referendum was held in March 2004.
As a result, the opposition began a series of demonstrations on March 28
demanding Kocharyan’s resignation.
The authorities in turn referred to the opposition’s demands and
protests as blatant attempts at seizing power by force and did not
authorize the demonstrations. President Kocharyan mocked the
opposition’s efforts calling it a `soap bubble revolution’ on state
television. These demonstrations culminated on the night of April 12-13
when government troops used force to break up a group of 2000
demonstrators by spraying them with water cannons, throwing stun
grenades among the crowd, shocking demonstrators with electric prods,
and beating them with truncheons. A number of protestors, including
members of parliament, were arrested and some individuals, according to
various sources were tortured by the police while in custody.
1 Reprinted from Ishkanian (2008), pp. 44-45.
The 2007 Parliamentary Election was held on May 12, 2007, following a
month-long pre-electoral campaign. Amidst reports of voting
irregularities, parliamentary election ended calmly on May 12. Armenian
public television labeled the elections as the best since Armenia’s
independence in 1991, while the OSCE/ODIHR observers called it `largely
democratic’ and a significant improvement over past elections. Local
observer and watchdog groups disagreed, however. The election monitoring
statement of It’s Your Choice(IYC), a nation-wide election monitoring
During the monitoring mission of the pre-election procedures IYC
registered a number of shortcomings such as unequal campaign conditions
for parties, use of administrative resources during the official
campaign period, absence of an election alternative in some precincts
and misbalanced power distribution in electoral commissions. There were
also serious violations such as electoral bribery in the form of human
and other aids, misbalanced campaign media coverage, cases of preventing
official campaign and shortcomings in voter lists.
The February 19, 2008 presidential election that followed is believed to
be the most controversial and violent since Armenia’s independence. The
use of force was reported both on Election Day and during post-election
demonstrations, culminating in 8 casualties during an assault on
demonstrators by police forces on March 1, 2008 (Human Rights Watch,
2008a). The official number of casualties would later rise to 10.
Early 2008 Presidential Election Developments
On February 19, 2008, Armenian citizens voted in their fifth
presidential election and for their third president since independence.
The main contenders for the top political job included Prime Minister
and the leader of the Republican Party, Serge Sargsyan; Armenia’s first
president, Levon Ter-Petrossian; a former speaker of the National
Assembly and the leader of Country of Law party, Artur Bagdasaryan; the
deputy speaker of the National Assembly and an executive member of the
ARF-D, Vahan Hovannisyan; and the chairman of the NDU, Vazgen Manukyan.
Less likely winners included Arman Melikyan (independent, a former
Minister of Foreign Affairs of NKR); Artashes Geghamyan (National Unity
party); Tigran Karapetyan (Peoples’ Party); and Aram Harutyunyan
(National Reconciliation party). Raffi Hovannisian of the Heritage party
(the only opposition party represented in the National Assembly) and
Aram Karapetyan of the New Times Party were refused registration as
candidates by the Central Election Commission on the grounds of
insufficient length of citizenship and residency, respectively.
Prime Minister Sargsyan had all the resources of the state at his
disposal as well as the backing of the outgoing president Kocharyan to
be considered the frontrunner. Sargsyan put together the most aggressive
campaign, with his photo captioned by the slogan `Forward Armenia’
plastered on billboards, posters, and buses throughout Armenia’s capital
and surrounding regions. His main challenger, Levon Ter-Petrossian,
enjoyed the support of two large opposition parties, Aram Sargsyan’s
Republic party and Stepan Demirchian’s People’s Party of Armenia, and a
dozen smaller parties and groups. The opposition, with significantly
fewer resources, also faced obstacles in opening and operating election
headquarters throughout Armenia.
Media coverage of the pre-election developments had its peculiarities.
With the exception of a small privately-owned station in Armenia’s
second largest city of Gyumri, GALA, the entire television industry in
the run-up to the election appeared to be solely interested in promoting
Serge Sargsyan, who also enjoyed coverage in state-owned/controlled
newspapers. In turn, Ter-Petrossian enjoyed favorable coverage from a
half-dozen opposition newspapers, but not enough to counter a strong
negative public relations campaign launched against him on television.
In fact, on February 8, Ter-Petrossian appealed to the Constitutional
Court to have the elections postponed by two weeks citing slander in the
media.6 The government-controlled public television station had been
airing a smear campaign against the opposition candidate.7 The motion
was turned down by the Court on February 11 in a conclusion that the
evidence provided was not substantial.8 Apart from the above two
candidates, and outside of the government-allocated time/limits of TV
coverage, Vahan Hovannisyan received extensive coverage by the
ARF-D-controlled Yerkir TV station, while Tigran Karapetyan used the
opportunity offered by his own ALM TV station.
Relations between the opposition candidates became problematic in the
run-up to the election. Ter-Petrossian, failing to rally all opposition
forces behind him, began to lash out at other candidates. One target was
Bagdasaryan, who he publicly called a `traitor’ during a rally on
February 14 for failing to officially support Ter-Petrossian while
keeping his name on the ballot.9 For not joining his campaign,
Ter-Petrossian also criticized the ARF-D, the very same party he had
banned in the mid-1990s, and one that has effectively been a power base
of Robert Kocharyan during the latter’s two terms as president. Vasgen
Manukyan, Ter-Petrossian’s rival in the 1996 election, who served as
Defense Minister and Prime Minister at different times during
Ter-Petrossian’s tenure, in turn criticized Ter-Petrossian supporters.
Accusations of wrongdoings were rampant throughout the campaign period.
The most notable one was made by Artur Bagdasaryan on February 3 when he
claimed that Serge Sargsyan threatened to assassinate him. These
allegations were dismissed by Sargsyan as `a pre-election trick.’
In terms of the dynamics within the opposition camp there was a lot of
hope for a change supported by a vast majority of the population. Levon
Ter-Petrossian’s October announcement of his presidential intentions
revived a morally-defeated opposition. Initially capturing the
collective imagination of a disaffected populace and stirring hope among
those exhausted by a legacy of corruption and disenfranchisement, the
former president’s momentum weakened by the beginning of the official
campaign season. Ter-Petrossian’s efforts, however, served to rekindle
opposition heat and other candidates’notably Vahan Hovannisyan and Artur
Baghdasyan’drew fuel for their own fires from anti-government sentiments
stirred by the first president. For the first time since 1996, the
opposition presented believable leaders with change as their mission.
Though not united behind a single candidate, the opposition showed
strength in numbers, and February 19 arrived with the common belief that
if the election were conducted fairly, there would likely be a runoff,
most likely pitting the former president against the (then) prime
Even before Serge Sargsyan became the prime minister following the March
2007 death of PM Andranik Margaryan, it was widely assumed that he would
succeed Robert Kocharyan as Armenia’s third president. Sargsyan spent
much of his premiership deflecting but not discouraging speculation
pointing towards the inevitable.
Six international and 39 local organizations deployed close to 15,000
observers countrywide, including more than 600 internationals,
ostensibly to encourage a process that would secure alegitimate and
peaceful result. As the post-election developments demonstrated, the
process failed. Preliminary conclusions by the OSCE observer mission
proved to be premature, if not damagingand misleading. Outsiders, quick
to embrace a repeat of Armenia’s failed history of elections embraced
these conclusions. While thefirst report called the election `mostly in
line’ with international standards, voters, media, and politicians
witnessed too many violations to agree that the elections met any
democratic standard. Additionally, allegations that Serge Sargsyan hired
public relations lobbyists in the US and Europe (Hughes, 2008, and
Zhamanak daily, 2008) left skeptics wondering whether the lobbyists were
in fact not successful in ex ante influencing the tone of these early
reports. Eventually, in a follow-up report (OSCE, 2008b) the observers
effectively admitted their hasty miscalculation, pointing out, among
other things, violations of vote counting in at least 16 percent of
precincts. This recognition, however, was too little too late.
The remainder of this Report systematizes some evidence of wrongdoings
on February 19 and analyzes the aftermath.
Misuse of Administrative Resources, Vote Buying, and Other Examples of
Abuse of Power 10
The polls opened at 8 AM in Armenia on Election Day. By 10 AM media were
receiving reports from competing political parties, NGOs, and voters
that the 2008 election was even more fraudulent than previous contests.
Within hours, Hetq Online, ArmeniaNow.com, and Legal Initiative:
Elections-2008, confirmed several dozen counts of fraud, violence, and
voter intimidation. Accusations that could not be immediately verified
were later found to be accurate and consistent with a pattern of
legitimate complaints throughout the day. By the time the polls closed
at 8 PM, Election Day 2008 was already being called the worst in
Armenia’s democratic history.
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel
Fried stated during his testimony before the Foreign Affairs Committee
of the U.S. Congress (HFAC, 2008):
The election itself was marred by credible claims of ballot stuffing,
vote buying, intimidation and even beatings of poll workers and proxies,
and other irregularities. Recounts were requested, but [OSCE/]ODIHR
observers noted `shortcomings in the recount process, including
discrepancies and mistakes, some of which raise questions over the
impartiality of the [electoral commissions] concerned.’ OSCE observers
were also harassed in the period following the election.
When the Central Election Commission returned a 52.8 percent count in
favor of Serge Sargsyan, just enough to put him over the 50 percent
threshold, many of those who observed the matter throughout the day on
the ground questioned the outcome. For those observers there existed
compelling evidence of vote buying, ballot stuffing, and voter
intimidation. A few examples of each are discusses below. Appendixes I
and II, which list violations as reported by the readers of two
independent websites, are available as further reference.11,12
Misuse of Administrative Resources
In several communities across Armenia, immediate involvement of
executive authorities and staff of local government bodies as well as
usage of state resources in electoral processes (including pre-election
campaign) was observed. A strong bias on the side of local executive
authorities in providing pre-election campaign venues, advertisement
materials, security, and other services to candidates was also
An overwhelming majority of city mayors in Armenia are members of the
Republican Party. During the pre-election campaign these high-level
civil servants de facto or de jure led the electoral headquarters of
Republican Party candidate Serge Sargsyan. In most instances this meant
that during the campaign period they would have been unable to perform
their duties as public servants. In fact, many of these local government
offices (48 cities in total, excluding Yerevan) effectively did not
function during the campaign period.
In almost all the regions observed, especially in major cities and
towns, meetings between voters and Serge Sargsyan were organized by the
local governments. Mayors and staff were fully involved in election
affairs and were tasked with organizing public meetings for Sargsyan and
ensuring the largest possible turnouts. People were often bussed from
neighboring villages in order to attend such meetings.
In Gyumri, as a result of the rally in support of Serge Sargsyan on
February 15, the daily routines of employees at regional governments,
city municipalities, and some regional and local bodies were
disrupted.During work hours, employees of these agencies were asked to
participate in the rally. Those who refused were allegedly threatened
with layoffs or various retributive measures (HCA&UFSD, 2008). In
Vanadzor, students of the State Pedagogical Institute were coerced by
the administration to participate in a pro-Sargsyan rally. Upon
principals’ directives, similar actions were taken in some high schools
(e.g., schools Nos. 3, 10, and 11). On the rally day, local governments
ordered free public transportation, apparently expressly to facilitate
One example of public outrage took place in Vanadzor in the aftermath of
this rally. Several high school students from different schools
organized a rally to call teachers back to their work places. The
students demanded that their teachers re-establish the normal
educational process in schools and not to be involved in politics.
In Yerevan, co-opting of administrative resources was observed during
the infamous February 26 post-election meeting in Yerevan, when some
residents of Yerevan and the nearby areas were forced to attend a
meeting organized by Serge Sargsyan supporters. Participation in that
meeting was mandated for staff and students of many schools, colleges,
universities, and some private businesses.
Compensation promised or given to voters on or before Election Day
included food, money, credits to pay utility services debts, and other
similar enticements. In Gyumri, for example, journalists observed voters
paid AMD 5,000 (about $16) outside the polling station at school No. 11.
A cameraman was attacked by Republican Party members when he tried to
photograph the transaction.
In Vanadzor, electoral bribes were distributed to the residents of
building No. 42 at Tigran Mets Street to vote for Serge Sargsyan. On
condition of anonymity, some residents admitted taking AMD 5,000 in
exchange for promising to vote for Sargsyan. Homes of constituents in
Dilijan were paid evening visits by people offering electoral bribes
amounting to AMD 5,000, again to benefit Serge Sargsyan. On Ashot
Melikbekyan Street in Ijevan, witnesses reported incidences of electoral
bribes distributed to voters heading to the Cultural House.
While electoral bribery in these cities took place primarily during the
days preceding elections (February 16-18), in Gyumri bribing took place
on Election Day as well. Bribes were distributed next to the electoral
precincts located in the railway station and in school No. 1, as well as
in electoral precinct No. 34. On the day of elections, about one hundred
people were gathered in front of the post office No. 16 and only after
having received money (allegedly between AMD 5,000 and AMD 10,000) were
they allowed to enter and vote (HCA&UFSD, 2008).
Voter Intimidation and Other Types of Election Fraud
The pre-election campaign in Yerevan was similarly problematic. White
flags of the Republican Party with the slogan `Forward Armenia’ appeared
on cars and nearly every city block, of the vehicles bearing this
emblem, a large percentage were expensive black SUV-style vehicles. Even
a number of privately owned passenger minivans and some taxi service
companies bore the flags. The drivers of some of those cars explained
that they were strictly instructed not to remove the emblems.
The atmosphere inside polling stations was also tense. Campaign
headquarters of Arman Melikyan reported to RFE/RL that a Melikyan proxy
was assaulted by a group of men shortly after uncovering a vote buying
scheme at a polling station in Yerevan’s Malatia-Sebastia district. The
person was subsequently hospitalized with serious injuries.13 In another
Malatia-Sebastia polling station, a member of the precinct commission
representing Artur Bagdasaryan’s Orinats Yerkir party mentioned in an
interview to the RFE/RL: `[t]here are lots of people who have no right
to be here. They stand by ballot boxes and tell people who to vote
In Kapan, an ArmeniaNow reporter witnessed uniformed policemen in
polling stations 38/02 and 38/05, even though police are not permitted
in polling stations unless called by an election commission head to
assist. In Kotayk, home province of the famously impetuous oligarch MP
Gagik Tsarukyan, proxies for Ter-Petrossian reported to police that they
had been beaten by bodyguards of Tsarukyan. In Abovian, a female
opposition proxy was beaten in the face, forced into a car driven by men
believed to be Tsarukyan staff, and threatened with rape before being
released on a road outside of town.
Serge Sargsyan’s campaign headquarters reported that at polling station
31/69 in the Lori region, Ter-Petrossian proxy Sargis Tamazyan
threatened members of the commission. He allegedly stated that `if
anybody tried to prevent him from doing what he wanted, the end would be
bad.’ At a polling station in Debed, voters were told that cameras had
been installed over the ballot tables and authorities would know who had
and had not cast votes for Sargsyan.
In at least one Yerevan polling station, proxies for candidate Vazgen
Manukyan reported that passports were passed over the heads of the
crowd, ballots marked, and then the passports returned. At several
polling stations in Kapan, witnesses reported busloads of soldiers going
from station to station voting multiple times under the supervision of
In Yerevan, an RFE/RL correspondent witnessed several dozen people
receiving police identifications outside Serge Sargsyan’s local campaign
office.14The documents allow these individuals’mostly from outside of
Yerevan’to vote without producing passports. The eyewitness claimed that
`[t]hey boarded three buses after being told by Sargsyan campaign
workers in which polling station they should cast ballots. Speaking to
RFE/RL, some of those people admitted that they have already voted
earlier in the day.’
In a Syunik region polling station, three men entered the polling
station saying they were there to change a light bulb. While one stood
on a table above the ballot box, the two others stuffed the box with
marked ballots. At polling station 35 in Vanadzor, a reporter observed
voters being asked to vote `openly,’ meaning that their choice would be
seen by Republican Party representatives.
Response of the International Community
While significantly less international media and diplomatic attention
was paid to the Armenian elections compared to other regional elections
(e.g., Georgia, 2003, 2007; Ukraine,2004; Russia, 2008), many issues
have been raised. In May 2008, a number of reports by governments (e.g.,
US State Department), inter-governmental organizations (e.g., OSCE) and
NGOs (e.g., Amnesty International) were published on Armenia’s 2008
presidential election and related political developments in the country.
According to the OSCE/ODHIR final report (OSCE, 2008c):
While the 2008 presidential election mostly met OSCE commitments and
international standards in the pre-election period and during voting
hours, serious challenges to some commitments did emerge, especially
after election day. This displayed an insufficient regard for standards
essential to democratic elections and devalued the overall election
process. In particular, the vote count demonstrated deficiencies of
accountability and transparency, and complaints and appeals procedures
were not fully effective.
In contrast to their preliminary report, this final report by the OSCE
is far more critical of the election process, and the sense that the
OSCE assessed the situation too quickly has emerged (US Helsinki
Commission, 2008; International Crisis Group, 2008; HRD, 2008b).
The US State Department (2008) report described the February 2008
elections as `significantly flawed’ and lists the problems as including:
¦[F]avorable treatment of the government’s candidate, instances of
ballot stuffing, vote-buying, multiple voting, voter intimidation,
violence against opposition commission members and proxies, and
suspiciously high turnout figures.
The report also defined the Armenian government’s human rights record as
`poor’ and mentioned the `pressure on opposition media, and continuing
arrests and intimidation of government opponents’ as problems, which
remain even following the lifting of the SOE on March 20. The opposition
welcomed this reappraisal of the election, but also stated that a more
critical initial assessment from international observers would have
staved off some of the violence (Armenia Liberty, 2008a).
In a March interview, United States’ Charge d’Affaires in Armenia,
Joseph Pennington said that he had observed questionable conduct during
the recounting that followed February 19. When asked `If the US’ highest
authority in Armenia sees voting abuse and cannot stop it, what chance
is there for an unknown proxy to have his voice heard?’ `Not much,’
Statistical Analysis of the Official Election Outcome
The analysis below is based on Central Election Commission of Armenia
data on Armenia’s February 19, 2008 presidential election. These are
reportedly the final results. The data contain none of the
irregularities described in the OSCE’s second interim monitoring report
(OSCE, 2008b), and therefore may have been recounted or tampered with
prior to being made public. The intention here is to examine the
statistical properties of the data and reveal anomalies and
irregularities, if any. From the outset, however, we should emphasize
that there are types of election fraud that would not create statistical
anomalies and hence could not be detected by statistical analyses such
as ours. Examples of these types of fraudulent activities include, but
are not limited to, across-the-board (i.e., uniform) paying money in
exchange for a vote or the use of coercion to obtain votes.15
Instead, the focus here is on those indications of fraud that can be
detected by statistical inference: ballot stuffing and vote stealing
(i.e., artificial augmentation of votes received by the candidates).
Methodology used below was originally developed by Sobianin and
Sukhovolskiy (1993) and Sobianin, Gelman, and Kaiunov (1994) applied to
Russia’s 1993 constitutional referendum and later developed in a series
of published papers by Michael Myagkov (University of Oregon), Peter
Ordeshook (California Institute of Technology), and co-authors. Below we
focus on four measures that have been identified in the ensuing
empirical literature as potential indicators of election fraud: (1)
distribution of voter turnout, (2) distribution of individual
candidates’ votes, (3) relationship between the candidates’ votes and
voter turnout, and (4) distribution of invalid ballots. The following
sections describe in detail these indicators and the relationships among
Distribution of Voter Turnout
In most elections, it is expected that the voter turnout (as well as
share of votes cast in favor of any candidate) will follow a normal (or
Gaussian) distribution.16 In this case, a chart of the number of polling
stations reporting a certain turnout or percentage of votes for a
candidate is shaped like a bell curve, with the top of the bell
representing the average, median, and mode of the distribution.17
Indeed, Myagkov, Ordeshook, and Shakin (2005) report approximately
normal distributions for non-republic regions of Russia in both rounds
of the 1996 presidential election, the 2000 presidential election, and
1999 and 2003 Duma elections. According to the same authors, Ukraine’s
1999 and the first round of 2004 presidential elections also fit the
same normal pattern.
Figure 1 (upper panel) below depicts the distribution of polling
stations as a function of turnout. While the curve largely resembles a
normal one, the right tail is rather wide, indicating a
disproportionately large number of polling stations with high turnout.
Indeed, out of 1,923 polling stations, 129 polling stations reported 90
percent or higher turnout, six of them registering a 100 percent
turnout. This `bump’ on the curve’an augmentation of the expected normal
distribution’resembles closely that in Russia’s federal republics during
the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections, and the 1995, 1999, and 2003
Duma elections, and Ukraine’s second round of 2004 presidential
election, all largely considered to have a high degree of irregularities
(see Myagkov et al., 2005). We should note that this kind of
augmentation of the distribution would be inconsistent with an overall
higher turnout across all polling stations (e.g., as a result of higher
political activism across the country, in which case the entire normal
curve would shift rightward) but would be consistent with excessive
activism in only a sub-set of polling stations.18
A critical point of interest here is the rather high average voter
turnout across country (roughly 71 percent). Anecdotal evidence indeed
supports high level of political activism, perhaps driven by an
unusually active pre-election campaign season, which introduced strong
political alternatives for an otherwise demoralized opposition (see
Section I of the current Report). Other developments cast a shadow over
this high voter turnout, however. As part of the February 2007
amendments to the Electoral Law, lawmakers rescinded the right of
Armenian citizens residing abroad to vote in Armenian embassies abroad.
Presidential candidate Arman Melikyan appealed this amendment in the
Constitutional Court prior to 2008 election, arguing that it leaves out
a sizable portion of eligible voters.19 Other critics argued that the
inability to vote and get elected into a public office as a result of
this amendment constitutes a serious violation of human rights.20 After
the election, attempts were made to estimate the true voter turnout
given all the `missing’ people due to voting restrictions and other
limitations (US Helsinki Commission, 2008).21
The lower panel of Figure 1 depicts the distribution of turnout for
polling stations in and outside of Yerevan. With the exception of a
small number of polling stations with high turnout (i.e., the rather
thin tail on the right), the distribution of turnout in Yerevan looks as
close to normal as one would get using empirical data, with very little
signs of malfeasance. It also shows a smaller variance among the polling
stations in terms of the turnout (i.e., the main curve too is relatively
thinly shaped). The distribution of the polling stations outside
Yerevan, on the contrary, has a much larger variance and a fat tail on
the right. This breakdown shows that most polling stations with
abnormally high turnout come from outside of Yerevan, suggesting a much
higher degree of
falsifications in the regions. For an almost identical mean value of
turnout (i.e., 0.705 in Yerevan vs. 0.712 outside of Yerevan), areas
outside of Yerevan record more than twice the amount of polling stations
with abnormally high turnout (i.e., above 80 percent): 15.2 percent vs.
32.5 percent for Yerevan and out-of-Yerevan, respectively. It is rather
difficult to believe in the credibility of this outcome given the
pattern of civic activism/participation in rural areas (and urban areas
outside of the capital) compared to those inside the capital.22
An equal mean value and an overly enthusiastic turnout in almost one in
every three polling stations outside of Yerevan (compared to those in
Yerevan) is also inconsistent with household survey data collected by
Armenia’s Statistical Service. As reported by Grigorian and Melkonyan
(2008) based on the 2004 Integrated Living Standards Measurement Survey,
households in areas outside of Yerevan are more likely to have migrants
than those in Yerevan. The only way this result would be consistent with
the above pattern of voter turnout is if for some reasons the rural
migrants returned to Armenia on February 19 to vote in higher numbers
than those originally from Yerevan, something we would seriously doubt.
If, however, the intention was to use the rural areas to impose a
predetermined outcome on the election, then in Ordeshook and Myagkov
(2008) words `what better way to do that than by reverting back to a
Soviet era electoral style wherein regional elites are allowed to
operate as before, election observers from OSCE are pointedly denied
access, and with bluff and bravado, officials are directed to assert
that ¦ elections are as free and fair as anyone else’s¦’
The following sections attempt to answer two questions: which of the
candidates benefited from the additional votes (i.e., the excessive
turnout), and how is this high turnout likely to have been generated?
Distribution of Individual Candidates’ Votes
As hypothesized above, votes cast in favor of any candidate should
broadly follow a normal distribution. Figure 2 below depicts the
distribution of votes for the 4 frontrunners, Serge Sargsyan (hereafter
interchangeably, SS), Levon Ter-Petrossian (LTP), Artur Bagdasaryan
(AB), and Vahan Hovannisyan (VH). It is interesting to note that while
not entirely normal, the distributions for AB and VH have some
resemblance to normal distribution, with minor abnormalities. In
contrast, the distribution both for SS and LTP look very abnormal. In
the case of SS, the chart looks normal only until the first peak of 45
percent and the decline to the 50 percent mark.23 What follows is a
number of large spikes at 55 and 75, and smaller spikes
at 95 and 100 percent indicating a much greater number of polling
stations reporting a specific turnout than a normal distribution would
predict. The spikes on rounded numbers may reveal manipulations driven
by `an administrative demand’ for a specific turnout to be reported to
superiors. The area below this curve but above a hypothetical normal
curve for all values of
turnout greater than 50 percent would represent the number of polling
stations where share of SS is greater than what would have been
predicted in a fraud-free election, and therefore the extent of
manipulations in favor of this candidate. Given the shape of this curve,
this is a rather sizable area (compared to the overall area under a
hypothetical normal curve) indicating large-scale irregularities.
In the case of LTP, the chart resembles a normal distribution only after
30 percent. To the left from that point, the curve reveals a
disproportionately high number of polling stations that reported a low
turnout for LTP, lower than a normal distribution would suggest. Thus,
the area below this curve but above a hypothetical normal curve for all
values of turnout less than 30 percent would represent the number of
polling stations where the share for LTP is less than what would have
been predicted in absence of fraud. Another peculiarity of this
distribution is that there is a large number of polling stations (45)
that reported zero votes for LTP, compared to none that registered zero
votes for SS.
While calculating the exact number of stations with irregular turnout
would be a challenge (associated with precisely measuring the integral
underneath these curves and above the normal distribution consistent
with each of the curves), we nevertheless can infer’based on the shapes
of these curves’that irregularities indeed occurred and were likely to
be sizable. The nature of the augmentation of these curves suggests that
votes for SS have been artificially inflated, while those for LTP have
been artificially deflated. The following section examines these
abnormalities more closely.
Relationship Between the Candidates’ Votes and Voter Turnout
Another test proposed by Sobianin and Sukhovolskiy examines the link
between the share of individual candidates’ votes and voter turnout.
They argue that the slope coefficient of the Ordinary Least Squares
(OLS) regression of a candidate’s share of total eligible voters on
turnout should be a positive number less than one, and close to the
share of votes collected by that candidate across country.24 If the
resulting slope is much larger than the candidate’s share of votes, this
would indicate: (1) ballot stuffing to benefit this particular
candidate, and/or (2) mobilization of voters beyond the normal turnout
that would disproportionately support the candidate in question and not
others. If the resulting slope is larger than 1, this would indicate
that not only the particular candidate in question benefited from every
additional ballot added to the final count, but also from votes
subtracted from other candidates.
Table 1 below presents results of OLS regressions of candidates’ voter
shares on voter turnout and a constant term, for all 9 presidential
candidates. These results are very interesting. The only relationship
that resembles the theoretical prior is the one for Vahan Hovannisyan.
The estimated linear relationship has an intercept of zero and a
coefficient that broadly equals the share of votes he obtained during
the election, 6.2 percent. This indicates no large-scale tampering
against or on behalf of this particular candidate in the form of
staffing ballots or subtracting votes illegally.
Second, the only other regression with a positive slope is the one for
Serge Sargsyan, with one critical difference in that the coefficient in
this case is greater than 1 (i.e., equals 1.204). This means that
(holding everything else constant and ignoring any differences between
polling stations) from every 100-voter increase at a polling station,
this particular candidate received approximately 120 votes.
Third, the slope coefficients for all other candidates are negative,
indicating that not only they were not able to retain their share of
votes as a result of (or with) incremental increases in voter turnout,
but they actually lost votes cast in their favor as turnout increased.
The negative coefficients are the largest in magnitude for Artur
Bagdasaryan and Levon Ter-Petrossian, suggesting that they have lost
more than others as a result of increased turnout. This last result is
not surprising because they had a larger amount of votes compared to
other candidates and therefore had more to lose on the margin. The only
beneficiary of these lost votes has been Serge Sargsyan (as indicated by
the magnitude of his slope coefficient), indicating both ballot stuffing
and vote stealing to benefit him.25
Table 1. Regression Results
Artur Bagdasaryan 0.218 -0.158 -12.69
Artashes Geghamyan 0.006 -0.005 -7.11
Tigran Karapetyan 0.008 -0.006 -6.04
Aram Harutunyan 0.002 -0.001 -3.39
Vahan Hovannisyan 0.000 0.067 7.35
Vazgen Manukyan 0.017 -0.014 -7.02
Arman Melikyan 0.003 -0.002 -4.14
Serge Sargsyan -0.457 1.204 47.99
Levon Ter-Petrossian 0.191 -0.085 -4.71
Note: The table contains estimated coefficients for OLS regressions
(Vcandidate/E) = Intercept + Slope*T + Îµ for each candidate. Number of
equals 1,923. All slope coefficients are highly statistically
Figure 3 presents a scatter plot of the votes of the two leading
candidates as a function of the turnout and helps to visualize this
relationship. The linear regression line indicates the estimated
relationship between the two variables.
An attempt was made to verify whether the relationships reported in
Table 1 for the two leading candidates held for subsets of polling
stations where turnout was plausible. Table 2 contains the estimated
slope coefficient based on sub-samples for different thresholds of
turnout: going from column 2 to column 6, we gradually excluded polling
stations with very high (perhaps implausible) voter turnouts and ran the
same regressions as in Table 1.
Table 2. Relationship between Votes and Turnout for Different Levels of
Full sample Truncated Sample for Values of T(urnout)
< 0.9 < 0.8 < 0.75 < 0.70
Serge Sargsyan 1.204* 1.105* 0.939* 0.703* 0.412*
Levon Ter-Petrossian -0.085* -0.003 0.141* 0.307* 0.496*
polling stations 1,923 1,794 1,585 1,370 1,027
Notes: The above are estimates of Slope coefficients based on OLS
regressions: (V/E) = Intercept + Slope*T + Îµ for the above two
candidates. All coefficients are highly statistically significant. * –
indicates significance at 1 percent confidence level.
The results are highly informative. When polling stations with very high
turnout are gradually excluded, one can see that the slope coefficient
on turnout (which, as indicated above, should be close to the share of
votes collected by the candidate) for Serge Sargsyan declines markedly
to obtain plausible values. Conversely, the regression coefficient for
Levon Ter-Petrossian gradually increases and takes more meaningful
values. More interestingly, in over one thousand precincts where turnout
ratio was under 70 percent, the slope coefficient for Levon
Ter-Petrossian is greater than that for Serge Sargsyan.
Finally, to exclude any idiosyncrasies at the level of election
precincts and regions (e.g., in case some regions have traditionally
strong support for one candidate or another, which may bias the results
based on the overall sample), we included 40 dummy variables
representing (41 minus 1) electoral precincts in the regression. Doing
so, however, reduced the coefficient in the regression for Serge
Sargsyan only slightly to 1.097 (from 1.204).26 The coefficient for
Ter-Petrossian changed somewhat (from -0.085 to -0.056), leaving the
outcome qualitatively unchanged.
A possible alternative to outright ballot stuffing and vote stealing in
this case is that in polling stations where turnout was higher for
reasons other than ballot stuffing (e.g., due to military voting, vote
buying, coercion, voter enthusiasm, or herd mentality), voters may have
been more inclined to vote for one candidate (in this case Serge
Sargsyan) but not others. However, none of these factors would explain
fully the pattern of regression coefficients observed in Tables 1-2.
Distribution of Invalid Ballots
The final and perhaps the most interesting empirical test suggested by
the authors of this methodology is based on the relationship between
shares of invalid votes and voter turnout. Logically, there should be no
statistical relationship between these two variables because higher
turnout should also raise the number of invalid votes in the same
Before turning to the empirical link between these two indicators, let
us review the statistical anomalies associated with invalid ballots in
out data. Table 3 reports shares of votes cast in favor of the two
leading candidates in sub-samples with different levels of invalid
ballots. It appears that in polling stations with abnormally high levels
of invalid ballots (i.e., columns 3 and 4, Table 3), the average share
of votes cast for Serge Sargsyan is higher and for Levon Ter-Petrossian
is lower than their respective officially reported shares based on the
total sample (0.528 and 0.215, respectively). Even more peculiar is a
large number (215, or 11 percent of total) of precincts with zero
invalid ballots, where due to some serious lack or fraudulent activity
72.8 percent of votes (almost 40 percent more than the country-wide
average of 52.8 percent) was cast in favor of Serge Sargsyan, and only
9.9 percent (less than half of its nation-wide average of 21.5 percent)
was cast in favor of Levon Ter-Petrossian. The only other possible’
non-fraud-related’explanation for this observation could be that those
voting stations with voters who are smarter and more diligent than
average voters across country (that is, are capable of following
instructions in such a way to produce zero invalid ballots versus the
average of 1.5 percent or 21 ballots across all polling stations) are
more SS-oriented and less LTP-oriented than average voters across
country. Given the specifics of Armenian election and the profiles of
the two candidates in question, we seriously doubt this possibility, and
therefore think that this is indicative of fraud to benefit Serge
Table 3. Select Indicators for Different Levels of Invalid Ballots
Invalid ballots Invalid ballots
(as a share of (as a share of
eligible voters) participants)
Invalid=0 > 5 % > 10%
polling stations 215 26 19
Share of Sargsyan
votes (VSS/E) 0.728 0.582 0.570
Share of Ter-Petrossian
votes (VLTP/E) 0.099 0.166 0.163
Note: The relevant comparators for these values, that is, that
officially registered shares of SS and LTP are 0.528 and 0.215,
Figure 4 depicts a scatter plot of the share of invalid votes as a
function of the turnout, along with a fitted regression line. The
relationship clearly indicates that in polling stations with high voter
turnout there is generally lower share of invalid ballots. What this
most likely indicates is that
when ballots were stuffed, the ballot stuffers did not care to allocate
a portion of those ballots to invalid ballots, and as a result the share
of invalid ballots in total went down. Note also the alarmingly high
concentration of polling stations with zero invalid ballots and high
turnout rates. This also indicates that high voter turnout was
artificially created by essentially adding to the number of voters.
In order to determine which of the candidates benefited from the lower
share of invalid ballots, we included this variable into the regression
we run in Table 1 for the two leading candidates. (The precinct dummy
variables were also added to the regressions to exclude any
idiosyncrasies at the level of election precincts). The results show
that while there is no relationship between the ratio of invalid ballots
and votes collected by LTP (the coefficient on invalid ballots is
statistically not significant), it appears that precincts with a lower
share of invalid ballots (including those with none at all) registered
higher share of SS votes (i.e., the coefficient is negative and
statistically significant), other things equal.
Table 4. Regression Results after Including Share of Invalid Ballots
Serge Sargsyan Levon Ter-Petrosyan
Dependent Variable: Dependent Variable:
Coefficient t-statistic Coefficient t-statistic
Turnout 1.070* 43.75 -0.056* -3.30
Share of invalid ballots -0.744* -6.18 0.010 0.12
variables (40) included included
R-squared 0.69 0.38
Note: The table contains estimated coefficients for OLS regressions
(V/E) = Intercept + Slope1*T + Slope2*Invalid + Precinct Dummies + Îµ for
two leading candidates. Number of observation is 1,923. * – indicates
significance at 1 percent confidence level.
The results presented above are not proof of election fraud. They offer
indications of fraud. In light of the above analysis, one could safely
conclude that the official reported data are indicative of serious
irregularities and fraud, including but not limited to ballot stuffing
and stealing of opponents’ votes during the vote count. All four
empirical tests employed offer some evidence of fraud and
irregularities.27 In fact, empirical results presented above would be
consistent with fraudulent activities described by Marietta de
Pourbaix-Lundin (de Pourbaix-Lundin and Eorsi, 2008), a parliamentarian
from Sweden who was part of the OSCE election observer mission:
The opening of the polling stations and the proceedings on the day were
not too bad, but the counting in the polling station that I chose to
visit was a disaster. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The
number of voters who had voted and who had been marked on the list of
voters was not counted, unused ballot papers were not destroyed and the
protocol in which the results were to be entered had already been signed
by members of the election committee. The most serious incident involved
the chairperson of the local election committee reading out the wrong
names when the ballot papers were to be put into different piles for the
nine candidates. The chairperson was well aware of what she was doing.
She was taking votes from Levon Ter-Petrosian and allocating them to the
[then-] prime minister, Serzh Sarkisian. Election officials tried to
hide what they were doing by holding their hands over the ballot papers
or by placing them in the middle of the piles so that I could not see
However, given the magnitude and frequency of these irregularities, we
will refrain from making any inferences about the true distributions of
voter turnout and individual candidates’ votes, and therefore the number
of added and stolen votes. Additional research and perhaps even
collaboration of officials from the Central Election Commission would be
required to unfold the nature, magnitude, and the exact location of
these irregularities. We also cannot offer any definitive picture of the
distribution of votes that would have existed had it not been for the
other types of fraudulent activities (i.e., other than adding or
stealing of votes) observed during and prior to the Election Day (e.g.,
abuse of administrative resources, vote buying, voter intimidation,
etc.). One thing could be said with some certainty, however: given the
consistency and strength of evidence of fraud offered by the four tests,
the above analysis casts a serious doubt about the small margin of
victory of Serge Sargsyan in Armenia’s February 2008 presidential
elections and the trustworthiness of the final election outcome.
Post-election Developments’Civil Society Awakening
Of the five presidential elections since independence in Armenia, only
the 1991 election is considered to have met international standards for
free and fair elections. The other four elections appear to follow a
pattern that has unfortunately become all too familiar: flawed
elections28 followed by protests and demonstrations by the opposition.
Although this pattern was repeated in 2008, the post-election
developments are markedly different from previous cases for a number of
reasons. First, several officials, civil servants and diplomats resigned
or were removed from their posts for expressing support for the
opposition. Such a blatant breach of protocol by senior figures was not
a feature in past elections when individuals would switch sides only
when the final outcome had been declared’and when they did so, they
would only move towards the ruling party, not the opposition.
Second, following the 2008 election and the events of March 1-2, civil
society in Armenia has become very active and vocal following nearly two
decades of apathy and political indifference. Although non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) had been active in Armenia during the 1990s and
continue to be active today, currently there is a broader based civic
activism, which extends well beyond NGOs. This section examines the
nature and characteristics of this renewed civil society activism and
considers the implications of this activism on future political
developments in Armenia.
Box 2. A Brief Background to Civil Society in Armenia
In the late 1980s, Armenians believed in the ideals of civil society and
the possibility of democratizing the Soviet system. This idealism
brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of Yerevan and
brought social and political activity to the forefront. In many ways,
the Karabakh Movement embraced the ideas and concepts of the nineteenth
century awakening (zartonk).29
Although an established civil society did not exist at this time, Levon
Abrahamian maintains that the `embryos of civil society’ (Abrahamian
2001: 125) were indeed present in Armenia at that time. To illustrate
this, Abrahamian refers to the demonstrations, the protest actions such
as work and hunger strikes, as well as the emergence of the information
tables (stoliki) which sprung up in Theatre Square30 in central Yerevan
in 1988. At these tables people could receive written or oral
information about elections, deputies, registration rules, electoral and
polling districts, and many other details about the constitutional
rights of Soviet citizens from those versed in Soviet constitutional law
(Abrahamian 2005: 242). He maintains that in 1988 Armenians `began their
education in democracy’ and were soon able to use the Soviet
constitution to advance their objectives.
Following independence, however, the situation changed. Due to the harsh
socio-economic conditions of the early years following independence,
most people did not have the time or inclination to participate in civic
projects and civic activism. Many hopes in the late 1980s were replaced
by disillusionment, apathy, frustration, and dislocation in the 1990s.
The early years of independence are referred to as the `years of
darkness and cold’ (mti yev tsrti tariner). Although there was less
broad based civic activism at that time, during the 1990s there was
exponential growth in the numbers of non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) in Armenia. This increase was a reflection of NGO growth
worldwide, also known as the `global associational revolution’ (Salamon
and Anheier, 1997).
Although civil society today encompasses much more than NGOs, in
practice, during the 1990s in Armenia, civil society was often equated
with NGO activity. Although there are a total of 4,000 NGOs registered
in Armenia (a sizeable number considering a population total of under 3
million), NGOs are not required by the Ministry of Justice to cancel
their registration when they cease operating. Therefore while there are
a large number of registered NGOs, this number is not indicative of the
vibrancy of the sector.31
The narrowing of the definition of civil society to professionalized
advocacy and service delivery NGOs has been referred to as the
`NGOization’ of civil society. Although NGOs are certainly an important
institutional component within civil society, they remain a mere subset
of civil society. Other important and vibrant civil society actors
include trade unions, faith-based organizations, grassroots and informal
associations, and self-help groups. There are many types of
organizations promoting various ideological and political viewpoints. In
Armenia, there are (1) independent NGOs, (2) government organized NGOs,
known as GONGOs, (3) NGOs that are run as private businesses, known as
`grant-eaters’ (grantakerner),,32 and (4) NGOs which are created to
serve particular political or economic interests, referred to as pocket
Recently, the government announced the creation of a Public Chamber
(Hasarakakan Palad) to provide a forum for NGOs, modeled on the Russian
example. While still at an early consultative stage, there are concerns
that this Chamber will serve to co-opt and silence certain NGOs. Russia
began instituting laws and developing mechanisms to regulate and control
NGOs following the `color revolutions’ in Georgia, Ukraine, and
Following these revolutions, Western support for civil society began
attracting criticism from governments throughout the former Soviet
states and led to the adoption of laws restricting NGO activity as well
as more insidious forms of repression in particular in Russia,
Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan (Howell et al., 2008). Globally, foreign
funding of NGOs and other civil society organizations is increasingly
described as a form of interventionism and neo-imperialism, and as the
creation of a fifth column. This tactic of accusing civil society
organizations of being in the pay of foreign powers is intended to raise
questions about the legitimacy of those organizations and about the
motivations and agendas of activists. This situation has been described
as a backlash against civil society that involves legal and extralegal
measures aimed at constraining, co-opting, coercing, or closing
foreign-funded NGOs (Gershman and Allen, 2006: 38; Howell et al.,
Civil Society Activism Following the Events of March 1, 2008
During the 20-day SOE put in place after the March 1-2 events, public
gatherings were banned and all media outlets including TV and radio
channels, newspapers, journals, and Internet news sites were only
allowed to transmit official communiquÃ©s. Although there was a slight
easing of the restrictions on March 13, it was little more than window
dressing because before newspapers could be published, they had to be
approved by censors from Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS).
Censors checked independent and opposition newspapers to make sure that
they did not publish `obviously false or destabilizing information,’
causing many newspapers not to resume publication until the SOE was
Aside from the SOE and in spite of Armenia’s commitments to the Council
of Europe, on March 18, the National Assembly passed amendments to the
Law on Conducting Meetings, Assemblies, Rallies, and Demonstrations.
These include more stringent restrictions on public gatherings. One of
the amendments of the new law complements the clause with cases where
authorities have "reliable information" that street protests would pose
a threat to "state security, public order, public health and morality,"
and that any such information coming from the Armenian police and the
NSS would be automatically deemed "reliable." According to Human Rights
Watch, these amendments `are incompatible with Armenia’s obligations to
respect freedom of assembly under the European Convention on Human
Rights’ (Human Rights Watch, 2008b).In spite of these restrictions,
however, and to a large extent in response to them, there has been
renewed civic activism by NGOs, coalitions of like-minded groups, social
movements, and other civil society organizations. A report by Armenia’s
Human Rights Defender examines how the restrictions, which were
implemented to quell the demonstrations, actually backfired (HRD, 2008b:
7).33 The opposition stood defiantly and even incorporated many of the
symbols and discourses of the 1988 Karabakh Movement including holding
meetings in Liberty Square, and using particular chants (e.g., `struggle
until victory’ (payqar, payqar minchev verj)that are associated with the
national liberation movement of the period, etc. (HRD, 2008b: 23).
Civil Society Responses to the Restrictions: Emerging Civil Disobedience
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Beginning with the 2003 election, and intensifying in each subsequent
election (i.e., 2007 parliamentary and 2008 presidential elections),
NGOs have implemented a number of initiatives in the pre- and
post-election periods including supporting civic participation
initiatives, raising public awareness about defending one’s vote,
sponsoring information hotlines, training and serving as local election
monitors. One of the things Armenian NGOs claim they are now doing, or
at least attempting to do, is challenging the climate of fear, which
they argue has emerged following the events of March 1-2, 2008. In
addition to the NGOs that were challenging the government’s crackdown on
the opposition, however, there were also NGOs working to convince the
demonstrators to stop the protests and to be `tolerant’ (HRD, 2008b:
According to the NGOs, arrests of opposition political activists and
attacks on high profile civil society leaders fuelled this climate of
fear. Following the beating of young civil society activist Arsen
Kharatyan on May 28, a number of human rights and media freedom NGOs
wrote in their statement: 34
We condemn such actions and declare that the attempts at silencing the
voices of the people and of creating a climate of fear only serve to
intensify dissatisfaction and resentment with the current
Following the elections, NGOs became particularly active in protesting
and publicizing the voting irregularities and fraud as well as
incidences of violence and intimidation of voters and local election
monitors. For instance, when Serge Sargsyan’s supporters cited the
findings of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM)35 to
argue that the vote met international standards, a number of Armenian
NGOs criticized the premise of the IEOM report that the election was
`administered mostly in line with OSCE and Council of Europe commitments
In February, nine human rights and media freedom NGOs36 released a
statement arguing that `the apparent discrepancy between the actual
findings of the assessment with the formative first two sentences of the
report resulted in the government only referring to this paragraph in
the international observers’ assessment in order to legitimize the
results of the election’ (A1+ web). At the pickets near the OSCE office
in Yerevan, demonstrators repeatedly shouted the word `shame’ to
indicate their disappointment with the observers’ report and what they
considered to be a legitimization of a flawed electoral process.37
During and after the SOE, NGOs sent open letters to international
organizations and foreign governments. The letters outlined the various
human rights abuses and violations by the authorities. In a strongly
worded open letter dated March 27, ten NGOs38 accused Armenia of
Soviet-style repression and `state terror.’ They wrote: `The scale of
such violence increases day-by-day. The Armenian authorities arbitrarily
violate constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms of the
people’ (Unzipped web). Although these letters do not appear to have had
an impact on local political developments, they have publicized the
various human rights violations both domestically and internationally.
Globally, NGOs engage in such activities in an effort to attract
international attention to domestic human rights violations and
repression. Such behavior is described as the`boomerang effect’ by which
non-state actors (including NGOs, social movements, etc.) achieve change
domestically by focusing international attention on the state (Keck and
Apart from issuing statements, writing open letters, and engaging in
protest actions, a number of Armenian NGOs have created a toll-free
telephone hotline to assist individuals who were illegally kept in
police custody, had their homes searched, or if they feel unprotected.
Hotlines are relatively new in Armenia; the first toll-free hotlines
(established in 2002), were created to support victims of domestic
violence (Ishkanian, 2007). These new hotlines received large number of
calls following the March 1-2 events.
While as of end-June there have not been any direct restrictions on the
work of NGOs, they have faced indirect obstacles. The authorities and
pro-government media outlets have attacked a number of NGOs of what they
consider to be unpatriotic behavior and published articles which raised
questions about the motivations of those NGO leaders and their sources
of funding (Novoye Vremya web). In another development, on March 21,
representatives from various NGOs sent an open letter addressed to
private establishments and international organizations stating that
their applications to secure conference venues in Yerevan were denied
without any reasonable justification’ (Tzitzernak web `A’).39 NGOs
believed that their inability to secure meeting space was due to
government pressure and fear of economic repercussions on the side of
the owners of these meeting venues. Such fears are not unfounded given
that tax harassment and official investigations were launched against
the businesses of those individuals who publicly supported
Ter-Petrossian (e.g., MP Khatchatur Sukiasyan). Another high profile
case of such administrative harassment is that of the GALA television
channel in Gyumri. GALA had been under pressure from the authorities
ever since it allocated airtime to Ter-Petrossian’s election campaign
and post-election demonstrations. GALA faced imminent closure if it did
not pay the AMD 26. 9 million (approximately $90,000) it allegedly owed
in back taxes, a decision of the tax administration that was later
upheld in court. In response, supporters initiated a fundraising
campaign across Armenia, with some Diaspora participation, and on March
25, GALA paid the amount owed and remained on air.
Non-NGO Civil Society
Apart from the activity of NGOs, other civil society organizations and
social movements, such as the Azgayin Zartonk (National Awakening), the
Save Armenia Action Group (SAAG), and the group of wives of political
prisoners, among others, have become very active since March 1-2. A
group called the Azat Hayer (Free Armenians) issued a letter to
Armenians worldwide calling for acts of civil disobedience and boycotts
of the traditional Diaspora political parties and organizations. Quoting
Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Jefferson the authors wrote:
Now the time has come for the Armenian to live, put into effect, and
bring into the light of day "civil disobedience," meaning "disobedience
of the government," and to win his personal freedom from the oppression
and fear of other powers and Armenia’s government.40
A group of exiled writers and intellectuals also expressed their
position regarding the electoral turmoil in Armenia. A declaration
prepared by the group for a conference in support of democracy in
Armenia that took place in Los Angeles on May 26 called for (1) the
release of all political prisoners, (2) the creation of a provisional
governing authority jointly with the opposition to oversee new
presidential and parliamentary elections, and (3) the return of all
misappropriated state and private assets.41
The continued ban on public assemblies and demonstrations has indeed led
to acts of civil disobedience as civil society organizations have had to
resort to alternative’and often very innovative’means of organizing
public gathering such as public walks (zbosanqner) on Northern Avenue.
During these walks participants read, ate, or played chess. Videos of
some of the public walks are posted on YouTube and discussed on the
various blogs. In spite of the seemingly innocuous nature of the
activities, police began detaining participants of the walks on March
Of the various groups that have become active in the post-election
period, three stand out for their particular activism: youth, women, and
the virtual (i.e., online) community.
The election itself and especially the demonstrations in their aftermath
revealed a generation of young Armenians as an active political
constituency.42 The festive atmosphere in Liberty Square in the ten days
following the elections attracted increasing numbers of young people.
Following the lifting of the SOE on March 21, politically active youth
organized and participated in a variety of protest actions including
candlelight marches, serenades under the windows of government
officials, and organizing relay races in Liberty Square. A number of
youth organizations and movements have come to the foreground, including
Sksela (It has started) and Hima (Now), and have since operated despite
the very real possibility of arrest, expulsion from school, and physical
Some critics argued that these youth groups are not representative of
the majority of young Armenians and that they are created by a small
group of young opportunists. Some even accused these groups of being in
the service of foreign governments because of foreign funding they have
allegedly received. It remains to be seen whether the youth movements
will build broader followings, but what is significant is that after
nearly two decades of apathy and political ennui, young Armenians today
are once again engaged in discussions about politics and the future of
Women’s NGOs as well as groups of women who share common concerns have
also taken an active role in organizing pickets and other civic actions
following the March 1-2 events, outwardly defying the SOE. During this
20-day period, a group of thirty women, mostly relatives of those killed
on March1-2, held a silent march the following week in memory of the
dead. Dressed in black, the women were escorted by police as they
marched from the St. Sarkis Church to the Grigor Lusavoritch Church.
They held white carnations tied with black ribbons and pledged to fight
for democracy. The date of this march (March 8) was dually significant
as International Women’s Day and also the 7th day following the deaths
of those who died on March 1-2.43 On April 7, the Day of Motherhood and
Beauty, a group of Armenian women gathered in front of the Prosecutor
General’s office demanding the release of all political prisoners. When
the Prosecutor General sent flowers to the picketing women, they refused
to accept his gift.
The first officially sanctioned demonstration following the lifting of
the SOE was organized by the Women for Peace NGO. This demonstration
took place on April 19 near the Myasnikyan statue and was attended by an
estimated 10,000 people. Although the official theme of the gathering
was to review Armenian-Russian relations in the context of peace
building in Karabakh, the demonstration rapidly became a platform for
the opposition, which until then had not had any opportunity to gather
Another active group of women is comprised of the wives of political
prisoners, who have organized actions including writing letters to
international organizations and organizing pickets in front of embassies
and the offices of international organizations. In the open letter dated
May 16, they claimed that their group, which was initially comprised of
the family members of the prisoners, has now grown `into a democratic
force that includes many thousands of supporters throughout the country
engaged in a mounting campaign of lawful demonstrations and other
political and human rights actions’ (Tzitzernak web `B’).
Box 3. The Role of Women in Other Countries
It is not uncommon for women to embrace more public roles during times
of crisis and turmoil. One of the first women’s movements was the Black
Sash non-violent white women’s resistance organization that was founded
in 1955 and continued to function until the end of the apartheid regime.
Wearing black sashes as a mark of mourning, members demonstrated against
the oppressive legislation, the erosion of human rights, and provided
visible proof of white resistance toward the apartheid system. In
Argentina, it was the mothers and grandmothers who were active in
publicizing the disappearances of their loved ones through their weekly
silent marches in the Plaza de Mayo.
In Russia, following the Beslan school tragedy, the Beslan Mothers’
Committee was formed in order to challenge what they perceived as the
government’s mishandling of the crisis. Another well-known international
women’s group is Women in Black which was inspired by earlier "women
wearing black" like the Black Sash in South Africa. Women in Black
groups around the world use non-violent and non-aggressive forms of
direct action including sit-ins and vigils. The Israeli/Palestinian
Women in Black for instance, hold regular vigils in the same place and
same time each week. The women wear black and remain silent even when
they are heckled and abused by passers-by who call them as ‘whores’ and
‘traitors’. Their policy has been not to shout back but to maintain
silence and dignity (Women in Black web).
After the suppression of the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, a
group of women, led by Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ding Zilin, created the
Tiananmen Mothers. Among their five demands are the full, public
accounting of the shootings and the release of all people still in
prison for their role in the 1989 protests. The Tiananmen Mothers face
repression from the Chinese government, which has accused them of
engaging in illegal activities and of being in the service of foreign
Another group known as the Armenian Women’s Movement (Hay Kananc
Sharzhum) sent an announcement calling upon women in Armenia and the
Diaspora to take a more active role in political life to protect the
rights of people of Armenia. They argued that women, as the pillars of
the home and hearth, are duty bound to fight tyranny and dictatorship.
One of their aims is to encourage women to be more actively engaged in
the political process and to protect their rights.
Virtual Civil Society: the Armenian Blogosphere
During the election campaign and in the post-election standoff, Armenian
television coverage was greatly skewed in favor of Serge Sargsyan;
opposition candidates were either ignored or portrayed negatively (e.g.,
Ter-Petrossian). The absence of independent television channels and the
strict loyalty to the regime of the channels that survive’a situation
that has lasted since the closure of the independent television channel
A1+ in 2002’meant that the reporting of the opposition protests in
February was scarce to non-existent. The broadcasts did not reflect the
reality of what was happening in the streets and squares.
People responded to this information blockade by transmitting news in a
familiar, more trusted and legitimate source: word of mouth. But in
addition, individuals began using new forms of communication technology
including camera equipped mobile phones and Web 2.0 technologies such
blogs, wikis44 as well as social networking (e.g., Facebook) and
video-sharing (e.g., YouTube) websites to share and exchange
information, opinions, photographs, and videos about the latest
political developments. During the SOE, the use of these technologies
allowed for the circumvention of the official information blockade. The
official information blockade did not stop discussion of politics; if
anything, the flow of information, at least for those who had access to
the Internet, went from a trickle to a tidal wave as news, comments,
photos, and videos were shared on a number of blogs that were constantly
updated. Some of the opposition sites, such as Payqar.org (Struggle),
referred to their publications as `samizdat’45 especially during the SOE
when access to the site was done via proxy server.
The number of posts and comments on the blogs dramatically increased
during the SOE when there was a dearth of information. A few blogs, in
particular Armenian Ditord (web) and Oneworld Media (web), have
reflected on the vibrancy and growing popularity of Armenian blogs. The
Armenian blogosphere is also discussed on a weekly Podcast from Radio
Hay. Frequently updated blogs include the Armenian Ditord, Bekaisa,
Caucasus Knot, Nazarian, Pigh, Seetizen, Tzitzernak, Unzipped, and
Uzogh.46 The popularity of these blogs has been so strong that even
Serge Sargsyan created his own blog on Live Journal and encouraged
people to write to him with questions and comments (Serge Sargsyan web).
It is reasonable to assume we will see more presidential blogs in coming
years since they are beginning to figure more prominently in national
elections around the world.47
YouTube in particular has added a new dimension by hosting videos
showing segments of demonstrations, fraud at polling stations, and
discussions with people on the street. Having its license continually
denied, A1+ created its own YouTube channel which has consistently been
among the most watched over the past few months since the election. The
most widely circulated video during this period was a clip which appears
to show masked gunmen firing live rounds in the direction of
demonstrators. The scenes of the shooting are juxtaposed with excerpts
from a spokeswoman from the Prosecutor General’s office stating that
government forces did not shoot at demonstrators. Following the global
circulation of the video, on March 14, the government issued reports on
public television that the video was a fake. This demonstrates how
events in cyberspace can have real life consequences.
In sum, regardless of the low rates of Internet access in Armenia
(estimated at around 6 percent) it is clear that a politically engaged
group of individuals is participating in the online debates and this
trend will grow as Internet becomes more accessible and affordable.
As of June 30 there has only been one officially sanctioned
demonstration (on April 19); all other petitions were denied by the
municipality. There is a great desire among civil society to hold public
gatherings, demonstrations, mass meetings and processions, which is
their constitutional right. This desire was evident by the turnout for
the April 19 demonstration. A similar event occurred on April 24 when
the commemoration of the 1915 Genocide was co-opted by opposition
supporters, rallying more than 10,000 people in downtown Yerevan despite
heavy police presence. The participants chanted anti-government slogans
as they marched to the Tsitsernakabert monument where they were met by
Ter-Petrossian who had come there from his nearby home. To signal the
nearing of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
hearings on Armenia (a procedural follow-up to the Resolution 160948),
the opposition held another demonstration on June 20th. Initially
unsanctioned, the police later allowed the well-attended demonstration
to continue. As this Report goes to press, the opposition is planning an
unsanctioned demonstration on July 4th.
An important question is how civil society will respond to post-February
19 developments: will it flourish or lose momentum under the legal
restrictions and arrests? While the government has attempted to label
the recent elections as a failed Western-funded color revolution, it is
an unlikely connection to draw given the absence of vocal support from
the West for the opposition or condemnations of the authorities, both of
which featured prominently in previous color revolutions. In fact, one
of the issues the Armenian opposition laments is the perceived `double
standards’ and silence from the West regarding the restrictions on free
speech and freedom of assembly in the post-election period (US Helsinki
Commission, 2008; ICG, 2008: 5). Speaking on behalf of Ter-Petrossian at
the US Helsinki Commission Hearings, Arman Grigorian said the following
with regards to the role of Western governments: `At the very least they
should be cognizant of the weight of their assessments and words. At the
very best, they should unequivocally side with freedom against tyranny.’
The situation remains quite tense and dynamic and many questions remain
about the significance, role and implications of this renewed civil
society activism. If nothing else, one thing is absolutely clear: apathy
has dissolved in Armenia and a very interested population demands to be
heard. The impacts of this revitalized civil society in Armenia will be
seen in months and years to come.
Post-election Developments’The Way Out
On Post-Election Political Dynamics
Thegovernment’s initial position following February 19 was to ignore the
demonstrations. This position could have been encouraged by the fact
that Serge Sargsyan received support from the international community in
the form of early election monitoring reports as well as congratulatory
messages from certain foreign and Diaspora leaders.49More importantly,
however, Sargsyan managed to win the support of some local opposition
figures to be able to go forward. Specifically, he struck a deal with
Arthur Bagdasaryan, a former Speaker of the House, who had earlier
broken ranks with Sargsyan to run for president himself. Many analysts
have argued that Bagdasaryan had always been Sargsyan’s protÃ©gÃ© and
Bagdasaryan’s attempt at the presidency was actually orchestrated by
Sargsyan in order to detract votes from Ter-Petrossian. A day before
riot police and internal security forces violently dispersed
demonstrators in Yerevan, Bagdasaryan met with Sargsyan and announced
that he recognized Sargsyan legitimacy and would be willing to cooperate
with him to handle `domestic and external challenges.’
The local news media then focused on a statement made by Bagdasaryan in
which he mentioned that he had been offered and accepted the position of
the Secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council. Meanwhile, Vahan
Hovannisyan (ARF-D) resigning as the deputy speaker of the National
Assembly, expressed concerns that the elections were rigged and flawed
announcing, `[o]nce again, the people’s right to express their political
will freely and the dignity of our citizens [have been] trampled
underfoot.’50However, he fell short of criticizing the government and
instead criticized Ter-Petrossian for `blatantly falsifying the 1996
presidential elections and setting in motion a vote-rigging machine
which we cannot stop to this day.’51
A week after the election, ARF-D produced a statement recognizing
Sargsyan’s victory with an offer to withdraw from the cabinet in which
they occupied three ministerial positions. The offer to withdraw,
however, was soon overshadowed by press reports that ARF-D was
considering Sargsyan’s coalition government proposition. On March 21,
Sargsyan announced the restoration and revival of the pre-election
government coalition where the Republican Party along with Prosperous
Armenia, ARF-D, and Country of Law parties developed a power sharing
agreement to `deepen democratic reform and speed economic development in
the country.’52The new coalition government was formed a month later (on
April 21) under the leadership of Tigran Sargsyan, with 11 out of 17
ministers retaining their posts.53This cabinet was then ratified by the
parliament with only the opposition Heritage party voting against it.54
While the new government was taking shape, the opposition pushed for a
release of detainees as a precondition for negotiations.55These demands,
however, were dismissed instantly by the new coalition government which
has until now resisted referring to the detainees as political
prisoners, choosing instead to refer to them as coup plotters or as
common criminals. This is not simply a semantic debate; the definition
has legal and political ramifications. In a very odd twist, Armenia’s
Prosecutor General continues to maintain that the opposition used
`psychological tricks’ or `mass hypnosis’ to gather support and that he
has evidence from the criminal proceedings to show that some of the
detainees were `delusional.’56 This is reminiscent of Soviet era tactics
of discrediting critics by questioning their mental fitness and
Meanwhile, the leader of the Heritage party, Raffi Hovannisian’who had
supported Ter-Petrossian during the election’tried unsuccessfully to
mediate between the government and the opposition. Amid this atmosphere,
on May 2, Ter-Petrossian made a public appearance and expressed his
willingness to negotiate with Sargsyan,57although his more recent
statements have been tougher, pledging to continue street protests,
`seeking to achieve a maximum mobilization of the public.’ 58By
end-June, the pro-government parties were functioning within the
parameters of shared power. Calls by Ter-Petrossian to unite the
opposition into a single larger entity’the Armenian National Congress
(ANC)’were welcomed hesitantly by some opposition leaders, and the
opposition is yet to give more specifics about the design and the
functionality of the ANC.59Beyond setting the political prisoners free,
the opposition’s demands are currently focused around getting early
parliamentary elections. If done properly, this in their view will allow
the formation of a parliament that better reflects the political reality
on the ground and allows a non-trivial representation of the opposition
in the country’s legislative process. This is also likely to give the
opposition a say in the formation of the new government.
However, the opposition’s achievements have so far been largely in the
realm of moral victories. Since April 2008, it has unsuccessfully tried
to challenge the government within Armenia’s legal and constitutional
framework regarding the wrongful imprisonment of demonstrators and the
ban on assembly. This was done simultaneously with legal pressure from
various international agencies that have criticized Armenian
government’s handling of the post-election developments and its human
rights record. The latest in these was a ruling by European Court of
Human Rights criticizing the Armenian government for holding back
freedom of expression by refusing to grant an opposition TV station a
license for broadcasting.60In an apparent failure to properly contain
these external developments, the ruling was dismissed by the Armenian
government as a technicality rather than a freedom of speech violation
on the part of media regulatory authority.61
As of early-July, rapprochement between the government and the
opposition looks unlikely. Political polarization remains strong and the
new government has not addressed the election-related issues, focusing
instead on economic reforms. Here too the future is uncertain. The
coalition cabinet, led by a reform-minded prime minister, is comprised
of individuals lacking shared vision, common convictions, professional
record, and political experience. Some of the far-reaching proposals put
forth by the prime minister arguably remain hostages to Armenia’s
oligarchic economy (where to a large extent old government and
government-connected individuals still call the shots), serious human
rights and civil liberties’ shortcomings, as well as daunting social
problems. Unless genuinely acknowledged and addressed, these factors are
likely to critically undercut support for any economic reform effort.
But the pressure from the opposition since February 19 has already begun
to bear fruit in this regard. Recent measures to cut down on corruption
and reduce barriers to doing business undertaken by the new government
would have been a stretch during Kocharyan’s 10-year tenure when
corruption in Armenia instead grew becoming more institutionalized and
entrenched in everyday life.
While seen as necessary steps toward reconciliation, measures to improve
business environment, however, may not be sufficient to get the process
moving from a standstill.62Despite international legal setbacks, the
authorities are taking a `business as usual’ approach in the area of
civil liberties and political freedoms. The reality on the ground,
however, is very different. A recent Gallup Survey conducted in Armenia
showed that 70 percent of the respondents were afraid to express their
political views.63An atmosphere of fear and resentment toward the
government could have serious repercussions for the Sargsyan
administration for the months ahead.
Nearly six months after the elections there is a sense that the country
is at an impasse. Although the situation remains quite fluid and
dynamic, the prospects of negotiations remain distant. Small-scale
street protests continue and a number of larger organized demonstrations
have also been held. The latter drew large crowds and served as a
platform for the opposition to lay out its positions and set forth its
demands. This was an important factor in getting the opposition-minded
public opinion informed given that the official media still is not
accessible to them. In the background to these internal political
developments, there have been efforts by some international actors to
resolve both the internal crisis as well as to move ahead on the
solution on the NK conflict. The negotiations around the latter will
continue to have ramifications on local political developments including
raising the question of suitability of a particular candidate to lead
the country in a period of potential external treat.
While arguably not very effective in terms of directly influencing the
course of political action in Armenia,64the external pressure may have
changed some of the authorities’ tactics. A recent announcement by Serge
Sargsyan about his willingness to allow a panel of Armenian and Turkish
historians to determine whether the mass killings of Armenians during
the 1915-18 constituted a genocide was seen by some as a signal of
willingness to go along on issues of importance for the West but also an
attempt to take the world’s attention away from the domestic political
crisis and the NK issue, which he is ultimately associated with.
However, there are already signs that this may have implications on
domestic political developments. In a clear sign of warning to Sargsyan,
ARF-D’s world-wide governing body, the Bureau, stated at a recent
session that `the fact of the Armenian genocide is not a subject of
discussion, and no high-ranking official representing Armenia may have a
different approach.’ 65
Moreover, these political challenges are complicated by a growing social
discontent over the rising prices, appreciating exchange rate, as well
as high levels of inequality and corruption. These are serious
challenges for any leader, but more so for one who appears to lack
strong popular support, who came to power as a result of a fraudulent
election, and who continues to rule by force. As we stated above, a
serious change in action’one that encompasses wide-reaching political
reforms and measures beyond those aimed at improving the business
environment’is necessary to move from a standstill and toward
Such a change, however, will not come about of its own accord. It will
take continued civil society pressure, efforts of Armenia-based
institutional players (e.g., the Ombudsman’s office and the Heritage
party’s parliamentary fraction), as well as involvement of international
stakeholders to make it happen. Unless the authorities undertake
credible confidence-building measures and genuinely attempt a dialogue
with the opposition, the current government is doomed to become the
government of some Armenians rather than of Armenia as a whole. In the
meantime, the tensions are likely to intensify and existing political
polarization is likely to widen. The challenge for Serge Sargsyan is to
reverse the polarizing policies of his predecessor. If successful, he
may have an opportunity to unite the otherwise hugely divided country.
Chief among those confidence-building measures should be an independent
inquiry into the February 19 and March 1-2 affairs. This should result
in credible and transparent legal cases against the perpetrators of the
election fraud’including at the higher levels of the political pyramid’
and subsequent crimes. This process should be preceded by the release of
all political prisoners as a confidence-building measure to allow the
society to heal. Once this is under way, a task force could be formed to
look into the conduct of early parliamentary elections and into the
design of measures to prevent any large-scale fraud from repeating
itself. This process could perhaps be overseen by a credible joint body
of local and Diaspora individuals with high social standing. To the
extent that managing this process would require executive powers and
ability to legislate (on a limited basis, to do away with any loopholes
in the current election-related legislation that effectively allowed the
fraud to take root), this joint body may be given status of provisional
(election) administrators, with a clear mandate of securing a free and
fair election within a fixed timetable.66 These administrators will then
be certainly well advised to reverse the ban on the voting at the
embassies abroad, allowing Armenia’s sizable yet largely disenfranchised
non-resident citizenry to participate in country’s governance.
* * *
The rhetoric of hate and the deepening of political polarization that
followed March 1-2 continue to stunt democracy in Armenia and cast a
pall over the current reality and prospects for future development. The
reality is that election fraud’in the various forms it took throughout
the modern history of Armenia, and particularly on February 19, 2008’is
largely to blame for March 1-2. One important lesson from history is
that refusing peoples’ free will and replacing it with elusive benefits
of short-term `stability’ or, much worse, with personal gains for a
well-connected few will backfire, as it did on March 1-2. Failing to
understand this and take actions to address the underlying problems will
have grave consequences for the country and the nation as a whole.
A1+ web (2008). `An Appeal to [the] International Community.’ Available
from: ;iid=58522. (Last accessed on
June 2, 2008).
Abrahamian, L. (2005). `Armenian Identity in a Changing World,’ Costa
Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers.
Amnesty International (1996). `Armenia: Amnesty International Calls for
Investigations into Beatings of Opposition Supporters Following Election
Protests.’ Available from:
EUR540021996?open&of=ENG-ARM. (Last accessed on June 19, 2008).
Armenaker Kamilion blog (2008). `Free Armenians Call for Civil
Disobedience and Boycott.’ Available from:
hive.html (Last accessed on
June 2, 2008).
Armenian Ditord (2008). `Blogs about Armenian Blogs.’ Available from:
(Last accessed on June 2,
Armenia Liberty (2008a). `Ter-Petrossian Schedules First Rally since
from: iareport/report/en/2008/06/1EBEBCA2-36C1-4587-9837 -6D9D1BC55588.asp. (Last accessed June 9, 2008).
Armenia Liberty (2008b). `Kocharyan Blasts Armenian Ombudsman.’
from:http://www.armenialiber ty.org/armeniareport/report/en/2008/03/CA0BFD67-5C 6A-4AD0-BEA7-60BBEC9BC719.asp. (Last accessed on Jun 15, 2008).
Cohen, J. and A. Arato (1992). Civil Society and Political Theory,
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
de Pourbaix-Lundin, M. and M. Eorsi (2008).`Election Secrets Revealed,’
Transition Online, April 22. Available from:
Gershman, C. and M. Allen (2006). `The Assault on Democracy Assistance,’
Journal of Democracy 17, No. 2: 36`51.
Giragossian, R. and J. Hughes (2008). `A Difficult Mandate: The Role of
Election Observers in a Famously Flawed Process,’ AGBU Magazine 18, No.
Grigorian, D. and T. Melkonyan (2008). `Microeconomic Implications of
Remittances in an Overlapping Generations Model with Altruism and
Self-Interest,’ International Monetary Fund Working Paper No. 08/19,
Hetq web (2008a). `Votes `Stolen’ From the ARF-D, or Votes Gifted by
Them?’ (Last accessed June 13,
Hetq web (2008b). `The Report of AFAJA’s May 7-12 Investigative and
Observer Mission on the Events in Yerevan in February and March
2008,’ (in Armenian). Available from:
(Last accessed June 21, 2008).
House Foreign Affairs Committee (2008). `The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts
and Closed Borders,’ Testimony of Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of
State for European and Eurasian Affairs, June 18. Available from:
(News and Reports section).
Howell, J., A. Ishkanian; E. Obadare; H. Seckinelgin; and M. Glasius
(2008). ”The Backlash against Civil Society in the Wake of the Long War
on Terror,’ Development in Practice 18, no. 1, pp. 82-93.
Hughes, J. (2008). `Spring of Discontent: Can Putting Down a Movement
Mean Moving Armenia Forward?’ AGBU Magazine 18, No. 1, pp.7-12.
Human Rights Defender (2008a). `Human Rights Defender’s Position on the
Existing Situation in the Country,’ March. Available from:
(Last accessed on June 6, 2008).
Human Rights Defender (2008b). `Ad-hoc Public Report on the 2008
February 19 Presidential Elections and the Post-Electoral Developments,’
May. Available from:
Human Rights Watch (2008a). `Armenia: Violence at Polling Stations Mars
Elections: Assailants Target Opposition Activists, Observers and
Journalists.’ Available from:
accessed on June 21, 2008).
Human Rights Watch (2008b). `Armenia: Sargsyan Should Restore Rights
Swift Action Needed in Post-election Crisis.’ Available from:
accessed June 21, 2008).
International Crisis Group (2008). `Armenia: Picking up the Pieces,’
Policy Briefing, Europe Briefing No. 48, April 8.
Ishkanian, A. (2008). Democracy Building and Civil Society in
Post-Soviet Armenia. London: Routledge.
Ishkanian, A. (2007). ‘En-gendering Civil Society and Democracy
Building: the Anti-Domestic Violence Campaign in Armenia,’ Social
Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society 14, no. 4
Keck, M. and K. Sikkink (1998). Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy
Networks in International Politics, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University
Myagkov, M., P. C. Ordeshook, and D. Shakin (2005). `Fraud or
Fairytales: Russia and Ukraine’s Electoral Experience,’ Post-Soviet
Affairs 21, No. 2.
Oneworld Media Blog (2008). `Armenian Blogging Comes of Age,’ May 11.
(Last accessed June 2, 2008).
Ordeshook, P. and M. Myagkov (2008). `Russian Elections: An Oxymoron of
Democracy,’ CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project Working Paper No. 63.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2008a). ‘Statement
of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions,’ International Election
Observation Mission, February 20, 2008 (released jointly by the OSCE
Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), OSCE
Parliamentary Assembly, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
(PACE), and the European Parliament). Available from:
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2008b).
`Post-Election Interim Report: 20 February ` 3 March 2008.’ Available
from: (Last accessed on June 21,
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2008c). `Final
Report on 19 February 2008 Presidential Election in Armenia.’ Available
at: (Last accessed on June 2, 2008).
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2005). `Republic of
Armenia Constitutional Referendum,’ November 27. Available from:
ml. (Last accessed on June
Novoye Vremya (2008) `If Hastings and Ben Kardin will Review the
Armenian Case’ Ð – Ð»Ñ?Ð¸ Ð¥Ð°Ñ?Ñ?Ð¸ Ð½Ð³Ñ? Ð¸ Ð`ÐµÐ½ Ð?Ð°ÑÐ´Ð¸& #xD0;½ ÑÐ°Ñ?Ñ?Ð¼Ð ¾Ñ?ÑÑ?Ñ? Ð°ÑÐ¼Ñ?Ð½& #xD1;?ÐºÐ¸Ð¹ `ÐºÐµÐ¹Ñ?,’
Apr il 15. Available from: (Last
accessed on June 2, 2008).
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (2008). `Resolution
1609: Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Armenia.’ Available
/AdoptedText/ta08/ERES1609.htm. (Last accessed on June 15, 2008).
Salamon, L. M, and H. K. Anheier (1997). `Defining the Nonprofit Sector:
A Cross-national Analysis.’ Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Serge Sargsyan web (2008).
on June 2, 2008).
Sobianin, A. and V. Sukhovolskiy (1993). Elections and the Referendum
December 12, 1993 in Russia: Political Results, Perspectives and
Trustworthiness of the Results,’ unpublished report to the
Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, Moscow, 1993;
as reported in Myagkov, Ordeshook, and Shakin (2005).
Sobianin, A., E. Gelman, and O. Kaiunov (1994). `The Political Climate
of Russia’s Regions: Voters and Deputies, 1991-93,’ The Post-Soviet
Review 21, No. 1.
Suny, R. G. (1993). Looking toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History,
Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.
Tzitzernak blog `A’ (2008). `Open Letter to International Organizations
and Diplomatic Missions in the Republic of Armenia: Request for Meeting
Space,’ April 17. Available from:
(Last accessed on June 2, 2008).
Tzitzernak blog `B’ (2008). `Open Letter from the Wives, Mothers, and
Sisters of Victims of Political Persecution in Connection with the 2008
Armenian Presidential Election,’ May 16. Available from:
letter-from-wives-mothers-and.html (Last accessed on June 2, 2008).
Unzipped blog (2008). `Armenia 2008: Return to Stalinism (statement of
NGOs).’ Available from:
-2008-return-to-stalinism.html (Last accessed on June 2, 2008).
US Helsinki Commission (2008). `The Crisis in Armenia: Its Causes and
Consequences,’ Testimony by Arman Grigorian. Available from:
p;no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=278&tx_ttn ews[backPid]=8&cHash=8ff59e8aba. (Last accessed on June 15, 2008).
US State Department (2008). `Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports:
2008 Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor May
23.’ Available from: m
(Last accessed on June 2, 2008).
Women in Black (2008). `A Short History of Women in Black.’ Available
from: (Last accessed June 2,
Zhamanak daily (2008). `Serge Sargsyan Used Paid Lobbying in U.S. and
Europe in 2006-07,’ June 7. Available from:
(Last accessed on June 21, 2008).
Election Day Violations Reported by Hetq Online 67
13:10 – A few minutes ago Levon Ter-Petrossian’s (LTP) HQ in
Yeghegnadzor reported that bribes were being handed out from a silver
Honda vehicle in the village of Malishka. The only numbers legible on
the official license plate were – 004 and 80. Some of the village
residents stated that the bribes were being handed out in the name of
Ara Abrahamyan, President of the Russian-Armenian Union. Others believed
that Levon Sargsyan, brother of presidential candidate Serzh Sargsyan,
was behind the bribe giving.
13:00 – A Car Chase in Gyumri
Passengers in a black BMW with no license plate parked outside the
Gegham Saryan School in Gyumri have been reported to be slipping money
into the passports of prospective voters and directing them to vote for
Serzh Sargsyan. Mikayel Hayrapetyan, President of the Conservative
Party, was able to videotape the incident and his car is now being
followed by a group of `skinheads’. Hayrapetyan has notified the police
but they haven’t yet responded to the call.
All Is Not Well in Nor Hadjin
`Fatherland and Honor’» political party President Garnik Margaryan
reports that in the town of Nor Hadjin in Kotayk Marz two polling
stations aren’t properly furnished and that election committee staffers
are seated right beside the ballot booths. Widespread election
infractions are taking place.
12:47 – Artashes Avoyan, from Artur Baghdasaryan’s Campaign HQ, reports
that they’ve already registered violation both in marzes and in the
capital. Fighting and scuffles were reported from the 11/04 polling
station in Shengavit. 5 cases of double voting have been registered at
the 8/08 polling station in the Malatia-Sebastia district where the
situation is described as ungovernable. Violations have also been
registered in the Martuni villages of Nerkin Getashen, Tzovinar and
12:45- Nelly Khosrovyan, from Artur Baghdasaryan’s HQ, reports that
around 11 A.M. in the southwestern B1 neighborhood (Bangladesh) voter
registration violations have occurred. Some voters have attempted to
cast a second ballot with already stamped passports.
Some 30-40 individuals were forced to cast `open’ ballots at the
Kindergarten #255 in Shengavit. Pressure was brought to bear on election
committee staffers and appointed observers.
A fight broke out at Polling Station 8/8. Members of the Republican
Party were reported to have instigated the melee.
12:44 – Voter Roll Violations
Hovhannes Igityan, who heads Levon Ter-Petrossian’s HQ in Avan, states
that voter rolls are being used to ferry people to polling stations free
of charge. Two voter rolls had been obtained by HQ staffers. Upon
hearing the news, supporters of Serzh Sargsyan raided the Avan HQ. The
LTP headquarters notified the police who are presently keeping the HQ
under watch. According to H. Igityan, one of the lists included
information as to how to best use it. In the list were the names of the
residents of Building #41 on Narekatsi Street in Avan.
Reports from Dilijan state that buses displaying the `Araj
Hayastan’ (Forward Armenia) banners of Serzh Sargsyan’s campaign have
been ferrying students registered in Tavush but studying in Yerevan to
their homes throughout the Marz to vote since early this morning. The
same source reports that 5,000-dram election bribes are being handed out
in Dilijan, but that it isn’t widespread.
12:40 – School Under Siege
The campaign headquarters of presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian
reports that the passports of those voting at the 13/08 and 13/09
polling stations at Public School #120 in the Erebuni district aren’t
being stamped. They also report that individuals are standing right
besides the ballot boxes and directing voters who to cast their ballot
for. Some 30-40 unidentified individuals are mulling about outside.
12:30 – 11.2 % of Voters Have Already Cast Ballots
The Central Election Committee has announced that as of 11 A.M. a total
of 265,533 ballots have been cast throughout the Republic of Armenia’s
1923 polling stations. This constitutes 11.2 % of all eligible voters.
12:00 – `Hetq’ reporter Shushan Stepanyan reports that groups of people
are assembling in front of the Davitashen 5/6 polling station and that a
group of youths are taking notes regarding the people entering to vote.
When our reporter informed the group that they can only assemble at a
spot 50 meters from the polls one of the youths threatened him saying
that he should find something else to do or else.
Artur Martirosyan, an observer from Levon Ter-Petrossian’s team at the
5/5 polling station in Davitashen, notified our reporter that he was
denied access to the site despite the fact that Tamara Nurijanyan, an
observer from Serzh Sargsyan’s team, was seen standing right next to the
ballot boxes. According to Artur Martirosyan, the passports of those
voting weren’t being stamped on the paper pages but rather on the
11:50 – `A1+’ reports that at 11:20 AM, at #6 Zavaryan Street, a group
of `thick-necked’ inebriated youth dressed in black and wearing black
caps attempted to break the news channel’s video camera. They approached
the `A1+’ cameraman as he was getting out of his car. They proceeded to
beat the cameraman, grabbing the cassette and destroying it. They tried
to break the video camera as well but failed.
One of the youth started to curse the `A1+’ cameraman and
`Zhamanak-Yerevan’ newspaper reporter Heghineh Manukyan when he saw
candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian’s campaign booklet in the car. When `A1+’
telephoned the office of the OSCE/ODIHR to report the incident they were
told that there were no available observers to send out.
12:13 – A resident of Avan informed Levon Ter-Petrossian’s central
headquarters that passport covers were being stamped in the 1/09 polling
station in Avan. This is an election violation.
Citizen Armen Sahradyan reports that a group of guys loyal to Samvel
Aleksanyan (Lfik Samo), a businessman and deputy of the National
Assembly, had converged on the 8/09 polling station.
In the village of Rya Taza (former district of Aparan) located in the
Aragatzotn Marz, Mesrob Adamyan, an observer from Levon Ter-Petrossian’s
team, was forcibly removed from the polling station and a ferocious dog
was unleashed upon him. During the melee 132 ballots were stuffed into
the ballot box. Rya Taza Village Mayor Broyan was responsible for
staging the incident.
In the village of Yrnjatap (former district of Aparan) located in the
Aragatzotn Marz, appointed observers from Levon Ter-Petrossian’s team at
the polling station requested the presence of international monitors
since some 30 voters cast `open’ ballots and local election committee
staffers refused to register the infraction. National Assembly Deputy
Lyova Khachatryan who has declared that the victory of Serzh Sargsyan is
a matter of personal pride for him controls the district.
11:50 – Mariam Poghosyan, from the headquarters of Artashes Geghamyan,
reports no election violations have been registered.
11:50- Heghineh Bisharyan from the election headquarters of candidate
Artur Baghdasaryan, reports than 3 violations have already been noted in
the Malatia district. Fake ballots are being handed to voters still in
buses. Fake ballots have been handed out in Zeytun as well. Voters in
the Nerkin Getashen have been forced to cast `open’ ballots. A
representative form Levon Ter-Petrossian’s campaign, observing
developments in Abovyan’s 28/6 polling station, was physically beaten. A
reporter from Radio Liberty who witnessed the incident informed the
headquarters of the news.
11:35 – Election Bribes in Malishka
Starting at 10 P.M on February 18th, supporters of presidential
candidate Serzh Sargsyan began handing out election bribes in the
village of Malishka, Vayots Dzor Marz, from a `Jeep’ SUV parked across
from the Mayor’s Office. Members from Levon Ter-Petrossian’s campaign
headquarters in Yeghegnadzor were able to videotape the incident. The
headquarters reported the news to foreign observers who formally
registered the complaint. Edvard Asatryan, a member of the headquarters’
staff, confirmed the incident.
11:30 – Reporting from the 9/25 Election District in Dzoragyugh, S.
Vardumyan, an appointed representative from candidate Levon
Ter-Petrossian’s campaign team, stated that recently 6 public route vans
were taking groups of people to vote. These vehicles carried the
following government plates: 0513s, 0514s; Route #4 van – 1074s; Route
#27 van – 2874s; and 0503s, 0505s. The vans’ official plate numbers
weren’t concealed. S. Vardumyan confirms that the observers and video
cameras registered this development.
11:25 – A voter in the neighborhood of Davtashen, Yerevan, stated that a
Route 28 public minivan was ferrying groups of voters to the 5/10 and
5/11 polling stations located in the kindergarten of Davtashen’s 2nd
district. The van in question was a Ford.
11:20 – According to reports from Vahan Hovannisyan’s headquarters no
election infractions have yet to be registered. 3199 people have already
cast ballots in the Aragatzotn Marz.
11:19 – Dustrik Mkhitaryan, from the headquarters of Vazgen Manukyan,
reports that 50-60 individuals entered the 3/29 polling station in the
Zeytun district and cast ballots based on extra voter rolls.
11:10 – Ballots Already Checked-Off
Reports from the headquarters of candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian in
Malatia-Sebastia (Yerevan) state that paper ballots already checked off
for Serzh Sargsyan are being handed to voters showing up at the 8/08 and
8/09 polling stations located at the Tekeyan School in the 7/21 Election
District. A fake passport was observed at the 7/19 Election District.
The police took the observer who reported the incident away. Reports
from the Malatia-Sebastia campaign headquarters state that members of
the Police are actively working for the benefit of the government’s
Levon Ter-Petrossian’s Malatia-Sebastia campaign headquarters reports
that election bribes are being handed out in the backyard of the
Andranik School in the southwestern B3 district. Voters taking the
bribes are then herded into vans and taken to the polling stations.
9:30 – Minivans outside the Republican Party of Armenia Headquarters
Since this morning minivans have been parking by the Yerevan Cinema
House that is located by the headquarters of the Republican Party of
Armenia. Four vans had a 99 in their license plate number and three the
number 104. One of the drivers stated that they wouldn’t be going out on
their routes today and were awaiting directions from the headquarters.
08:00 – According to the statement of the Central Election Committee all
1923 polling stations across Armenia were opened as of 8 A.M. Votes can
be cast until 8 P.M.
The complete list of violations reported on Hetq Online (in Armenian) is
available from: and
Legal Initiative: Elections-2008
Summary of Calls Received on Election Day 68
On February 19 the office of `Legal Initiative: Elections-2008′ received
around 475 alerts on different transgressions. Almost 70 calls out of
the overall number sought on spot legal assistance and the Hotline
Ambulances were sent accordingly. The remaining calls of approximately
405 involved legal consultations over the phone. During the day of
Elections the following complaints were registered.
* A voter reported that at the polling stations 5/28 the voting
ballots were marked by only two signatures instead of three.
According to Article 53, point 1 of the RA Electoral Code, the
voting ballots should have three signatures of the electoral
commission members. According to the Decision #15N of the RA
Central Electoral Commission of 09.02.2008 the ballot voting is
regarded as invalid if it is not signed by three members of the
* A caller, who called himself Mher, reported that during his
voting at the polling station 7/12 he observed a massive ballot
stuffing, some proxies were sitting in the station, with torn
clothes, some of them crying.
* More than a dozen inhabitants of Ashtarak city reported that
they saw strange names registered in the voting lists as
registered at the addresses of their apartments.
* Some commission members of the polling station 1/10 of Yerevan
threaten the observers.
* At the polling stations located in the schools #114, #71 and in
the library of Khnko Aper, groups of people were noticed, who
instead of voting with passports were voting with the Form No.
* Bribes were distributed at the shop in front of polling stations
29/12 and 29/11 of Vanadzor city.
* In Artashat polling station 17/10 a voter Karine Ivanyan saw
ballot stuffing and when she made a loud notice of it, the
commission members beat her.
* The head of the `Liberalism and democracy’ observation mission
Nouneh Vartuni made photos on how people were brought by cars
and microbuses to the central market `GUM’, and are given
documents proving their right to vote by the address of their
living. Around 17:00, Nouneh Vartuni made photos near the
building of the Union of Writers of cars which were traveling
from one to another polling station, after which she was
approached by young people who came out from the white car Niva
with 01 SS 907 license numbers and took by force, the camera
* An uncontrolled situation is reported about polling station
13/16 in Erebuni district of Yerevan, where ballot stuffing and
open voting was observed. At the polling station many observers
and the NA deputy of Zharangutyun party Zaruhi Postanjian were
present, though this does not stop illegal practice. The rapid
response car’s command of the Legal Initiative 2008 witnesses
that the police used physical against Zaruhi Postanjian.
* A black car PRADO with 99SS888 license number was located next
to the polling station 3/20, and people before voting were
approaching this car.
* In the school #174, of the Malatia Sebastia region, Polling
station 7/12, one of the members of the `Legal Initiative
Elections 2008′ rapid response cars – journalist Elmira
Martirosyan took a photo on the fact of ballot stuffing. The
present police, using force, took the photo camera from the
journalist and pulled the memory chip out of the camera.
* Numerous calls report that the chairmen of the electoral
commission do not let the opposition candidates’ proxies to
check the passports of voters.
* The son of Iskhan Manukyan, inhabitant of Vanadzor city, has
returned home after finishing his military service, and seeing
that his name is not in the voters’ list went to the Court. The
Court refused to receive his application for legal proceeding on
restoring his right to vote. According to other callers, courts
of Vanadzor, Gyumri, Shengavit and Kentron-Nork-Marash districts
of Yerevan also refused to proceed on applications on restoring
* Voters of the 13/13 polling station are led to voting by people
who have flags with slogans `Forward Armenia’ (the slogan of the
current Prime Minister, Presidential candidate Serzh
* Next to 3/27 polling station some people sitting in a red car
OPEL have voters’ lists and part of voters before entering the
polling stations approach the car and then go to vote.
* Observers at the polling station 5/21, located in the school
named after Shirvanzade, noticed that a number of young people
voted for several times. The observers demanded of the
commission members that they follow the provision on putting
special marks in the passports of the voted persons (according
to the new provision, the commission members are obliged to put
special marks in the last page of the passport of each voted
person). The commission members threatened observers to take
physical actions against those who complain.
* In 14/7 district of Ashtarak town, a candidate proxy Sona
Malkhasyan is threatened by some of commission members, who push
her to leave the polling station. By 15:30 Sona Malkhasyan is
still in the polling station.
* A case of fighting in the polling station located in School #162
was reported at approximately 15:30.
* A mass ballot stuffing in polling station 27/25 `in Aramus
village- was reported.
* Voters are brought to the polling stations 34/24, 34/25, 34/26
by microbuses and are given bribes to vote for Serzh Sargsyan.
One citizen saw how a car-BMW `is located next to one of the
stations- and people sitting there distribute election bribes.
* Polling station 16/44 `in Nizami village of Masis region- the
chairman of the electoral commission – does not allow the proxy
of Levon Ter-Petrossian to become familiar with protocols.
* The voters’ list of the hospital of the Sevan town was increased
by 40 persons.
* One of voters of the polling station 6/29 complaint that he saw
in the voter list an unknown name registered as inhabitant of
* A fight was reported to take place in 4/24 polling station.
* In the polling station located in the Yerevan school #100, a
practice of `carousel’ was noted. Observers composed an official
statement on this.
* In the polling station 13/11 of Erebuni community an open voting
and ballot stuffing was registered.
* In the center of Yerevan a bus full of 25 people circulates from
a district to district. In the district #11/03 in the building
of a kindergarten #255 there is a gathering of voters.
* In Artashat a gathering of people is noticed in the district
#11/17, mass stuffing of ballots has been recorded; the reports
have been drawn up. The staff of the `Legal Initiative:
Elections-2008′ Legal Emergency car was threatened.
* In the districts #24/15 and #24/14 of the city of Martuni there
was an open voting. The report has been drawn up.
* In the district #7/18 located in the school #162 one of the
observers was arrested.
* In the district #13/28 there were cases of mass stuffing of
ballots. A 14-year-old child has voted, an appropriate report is
being drawn up.
* In the electoral district #8/21 of Malatia-Sebastia mass
stuffing of ballots has been recorded, there were people beaten,
one of the victims, Pargev Mnatsakanyan, was taken to the
hospital. A statement addressed to the Office of Public
Prosecutor is be being prepared.
* In the student dormitories of Yerevan Nor-Nork district some
people were forcing to take money and vote in favor of Serzh
* In Yerevan electoral districts #4/28 and #4/27 one citizen
recorded the `carousel-voting’. A protest report has been drawn
1 Petitions by two opposition leaders, Tigran Karapetyan and Levon
Ter-Petrossian, were turned down by the Constitutional Court on March 8,
during which time Armenia was under an SOE.
2 See Section II for a background on this case.
3 In a television interview, outgoing President Kocharyan mentioned the
possibility of using force against demonstrators.
4 Independent media have covered these proceedings extensively.
5 As reported by Hetq web `b’. AFAJA’s full report (in French) can be
accessed via (Library section)
6 According to the country’s Election Code a presidential candidate has
the right to file a motion for postponing an election if `insurmountable
obstacles’ are claimed to be met in his or her own campaign.
7 A consistently negative attitude toward Levon Ter-Petrossian in the
coverage of the state-controlled television stations was flagged among
others by Yerevan Press Club, an independent media monitoring
8 `High Court Refuses to Delay Armenian Vote,’ RFE/RL, February 11,
9 There were extensive speculations in the media that the two opposition
candidates would join forces against Serge Sargsyan.
10 In addition to observations made by PFA members, information provided
in this section is drawn from `Presidential Elections in Armenia: Report
by Local Observers,’ prepared by Helsinki Committee of Armenia and Urban
Foundation for Sustainable Development (hereafter HCA&UFSD, 2008),
RFE/RL reports, as well as articles in AGBU Magazine, Aravot, Haykakan
Zhamanak, and other newspapers. In the interest of readability the
specific references are mostly omitted. They are on file and will be
provided upon request.
11 It is our understanding that an extensive list of violations
(possibly containing some of the information reported in Appendixes I
and II) was presented to the Constitutional Court as part of the appeal
process initiated by two opposition candidates (see footnote 1 in the
12 Considering that the overwhelming majority of cases listed in
Appendixes I and II indicated violations committed in order to benefit
the Republican Party candidate, PFA attempted to search for other
sources containing claims of wrongdoings to benefit any of the
opposition candidates. The Republican Party website and other sources
searched did not reveal any systematized information in this regard. The
Central Election Commission’s website offers no information on electoral
13 `Armenian Opposition Cries Foul Amid Reports of Violence, Fraud,’
RFE/RL, February 19, 2008.
15 Anecdotal evidence of both types of fraudulent activities is ample in
the context of the February 2008 election. See, for example, ICR (2008)
or Section III in the current Report.
16 Hereafter, turnout (T) is defined as share of voters (S) who showed
up at the polling station within the total number of eligible (E) voters
registered at the same polling station.
17 More formally, a normality of distribution for any large number of
variables is followed from Lyapunov’s central limit theorem. The latter
requires that the random variables in question be independent for their
sum/average to be normally distributed.
18 It is conceivable that the turnout in some polling stations is
different from the rest for cultural, demographic, or professional
reasons. In the Armenian context, however, it is difficult to come up
with factors that would offer a credible explanation for the highly
noticeable fat tail depicted on Figure 1.
19 `Arman Melikyan is Ready to Dispute with Three Political Powers,’ A1
+, February 5, 2008.
21 Melikyan himself argued (citing the official data from the Department
of Migration on the existence of over 500,000 migrants with Armenian
citizenship working/residing abroad) that officially reported voter
numbers would suggest turnouts in the 90 percent range, if measured
against people who were physically in Armenia and therefore able to cast
22 Even if the relatively smaller size of the polling stations in areas
outside of Yerevan would have anything to do with this outcome, the
difference (63 percent; on average 1,094 registered voters outside of
Yerevan vs. 1,739 on average in polling stations in Yerevan) would
hardly explain twice between the turnout pattern in and outside of
23 Interestingly enough, in 13 electoral precincts in the capital
Yerevan, where the extent of falsifications is believed to have been
lower, Serge Sargsyan received an average of 45 percent of votes.
24 The described regression for the jth candidate and ith polling
station can be written in the following way (ignoring the constant term
for presentational simplicity): , where, as defined in footnote 16, V is
the number of votes received by the candidate, T is turnout (defined as
S divided by E), S is the number of eligible voters who showed up at the
polling station to vote, and E is the total number of eligible voters.
is the error term. It can be shown that the following estimator(which is
the share of votes collected by the jth candidate across all polling
stations) has an expected value equal to that of the OLS estimator
(i.e., where) plus a (small) term.
25 As indicated above, Vahan Hovannisyan on average retained his `fair’
share of votes.
26 Doing the same in the case of Vahan Hovannisyan reduces the slope
coefficient in the respective regression in a much smaller fashion (from
0.067 to 0.059) indicating smaller region-wide differences among his
voters compared to that of Serge Sargsyan. The results based on
regressions with precinct dummy variables for all other candidates are
available upon request.
27 It would also have been possible to correct some of the observed
irregularities during the recount process. However, the latter itself
had some inherent procedural weaknesses and was marred by serious
violations. For example, the law allows as little as 3 days after the
election for formal complaints to be filed and for those complaints to
be investigated. Thus, with a capacity to recount only 2-3 polling
stations per day (as estimated by an election commission member,
interviewed by PFA), an average precinct election commission could not
recount ballots in more than ten polling stations within a precinct
during those 3 days. Given that in some precincts more than 20 polling
stations had registered complains, the allocated time was inadequate to
handle all complaints. In addition, anecdotal evidence revealed that
some election officials in precincts (1) refused to register candidates’
complaints (e.g., because they had to be somewhere else or being just
plain tired at the time the complaint was filed, etc.) and (2) exercised
discretion as to which complaint to consider and which to ignore.
Needless to say, actions/inactions such as these are likely to render
the overall re-count process not very effective in revealing/correcting
manipulations and fraud. Nevertheless, at least in some instances
re-counts were useful in revealing certain anomalies. For example, as
reported by Hetq Online (Hetq web), a recount of the ballots based on
the protest filed by Artur Bagdasaryan in the polling station 9/31 in
Yerevan showed that Serge Sargsyan `received’ votes from all other
candidates (i.e., votes that were counted as received by Serge Sargsyan
actually belonging to other candidates).
28 `Flawed elections’ in this context refer to flaws and problems which
occurred during the pre- and post-election periods including, inter
alia, unequal access to media outlets, vote buying, vote rigging,
violence toward local election observers.
29 The secular nationalism of nineteenth century Armenian
revolutionaries symbolized the emergence of a new national
consciousness, often referred to as an awakening and marked a
fundamental shift in Armenian thinking. As Ronald Suny maintains, it
emphasized a break with the Church, the importance of the ethnic culture
of the common folk, the vernacular languages of ordinary speech, and the
need to engage the modern world politically (Suny 1993: 9). The break
with the Church was intended to create a new identity around the idea of
an independent national polity and not as a religious community.
30 Following independence, Theatre Square was renamed Liberty Square
31 Of the over 4,000 registered NGOs, only approximately 200-250,
including both service delivery as well as advocacy groups, are actively
engaged in projects (Ishkanian, 2008).
32 Grantakerutyun (`grant-eating’) is another form of corruption.
33 The Ombudsman, Armen Harutyunyan, was subsequently criticized by the
Prosecutor General and the Justice Minister of writing a `political’
report. Prior to that, following the Ombudsman’s first pubic report
(HRD, 2008a), president Kocharyan described Harutyunyan was one of his
worst appointments ever. He accused Harutyunyan of tarnishing Armenia’s
image abroad and that he `does not understand what he is talking
about.’ (Armenia Liberty, 2008b).
34 Transparency International Anti-corruption Center; Helsinki Citizens’
Assembly Vanadzor Office; "Huys" NGO; Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly
Armenian Committee; Lawyers for Human Rights; Rights and Freedom Center;
"Asparez" Journalists’ Club; "Zartonk-89" NGO; "The Soldier’s Protection
Committee" Initiative Group; National Citizens’ Initiative; Youth for
Democracy; "Mijnaberd" NGO; and Foundation against Violation of Law
35 The IEOM was a joint undertaking of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.
36 `Asparez’ Journalists’ Club; Committee to Protect Freedom of
Expression; Helsinki Committee of Armenia; Helsinki Citizens Assembly
Vanadzor Branch; `Internews-Armenia’ Media Support NGO; Media Diversity
Institute; Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia;
Transparency International Anti-corruption Center; and Yerevan Press
37 The final IEOM report was issued in late May and embraced a more
critical stance on the election results and post-election developments.
38 "Youth for Democracy" NGO; Transparency International Anti-corruption
Center NGO; "Asparez" Journalists’ Club; "Krtutyan Asparez" NGO;
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Armenian Committee NGO; Helsinki Citizens’
Assembly Vanadzor Office; "Huys" NGO; "We Plus" NGO; "Victims of State
Needs" NGO and Sksela Youth Movement.
39 Indeed this lack of meeting space was an obstacle that led the
opposition to announce that it will organize the second Armenian
National Congress in Tbilisi, Georgia. Fearing the negative publicity
that would be generated if the opposition were to hold a meeting in a
foreign country, the government relented and eventually allowed the
opposition to hold the congress in Yerevan.
40 Translation by Armenaker Kamilion web. The Manifest of Free Armenians
is available at tm.
41 The statement can be found at Its authors
also demand the reinstatement of all civil liberties, including the
removal of obstacles for the return to Armenia of the exiled
intellectuals. They maintain that their inability to vote and get
elected into a public office constitutes a violation of human rights and
express their willingness to nominate a presidential candidate under the
42 The Human Rights Defender’s report argues that the `active
participation of scores of youth’ to events organized by Ter-Petrossian
is because `youth has [sic] a deeper perception of those eternal values
(e.g., justice, democracy, equality, human rights, etc.) (HRD, 2008b:
43 A tradition in the Armenian Apostolic Church calls for the 7th and
40th days following death to be marked.
44 There is also a Wikipedia page dedicated to the 2008 election with
updated information on the events.
45 `Samizdat’ is a Russian word indicating a self-made, underground
46 The Armenian blogs tend to have a predominant language, either
English or Russian, but also provide information in Armenian, English,
and Russian. The multilingual blogs demonstrate the global reach of
these technologies as well as the diversity of the participants. While
generating debate and discussion, the blogs also provide anonymity to
the discussants, resulting in freer discussions.
47 For instance, in the United States, all the presidential candidates
have blogs which have supported their campaigning and fundraising
48 Resolution 1609 considered `the possibility of suspending the voting
rights of the Armenian delegation’ unless considerable progress was made
on a number of issues. These included revoking, in line with Venice
Commission recommendations, the recently adopted amendments to the Law
on Conducting Meetings, Assemblies, Rallies and Demonstrations and
starting an independent, transparent and credible inquiry into the
events of March 1, 2008, as well as the circumstances leading up to
them. Other conditions included the release of persons detained on
seemingly artificial and politically motivated charges and the
initiation of an open and serious dialogue between the political forces.
PACE has stated that unless the conditions are met and `if no
considerable progress has been made on these requirements’ then the
Assembly could consider the possibility of suspending the voting rights
of the Armenian delegation to the Assembly at the opening of its June
2008 part-session (PACE web).
49 The organized Diaspora community too demonstrated a rather lenient
approach toward the events in Armenia, as evident from a joint statement
made by five leading U.S. Diaspora groups on March 18. (Signatories
included the Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian General Benevolent
Union, Armenian National Committee of America, Diocese of the Armenian
Church of America (Eastern/Western) and Prelacy of the Armenian
Apostolic Church of America (Eastern/Western). Statement is available
from , News and Reports section). Interestingly
enough, for the Armenian Assembly this was a departure from its
traditionally stronger focus on human rights and democracy in Armenia,
including criticism of past elections. Furthermore, Assembly’s abrupt
dismissal in April of its Director of Research and Analysis, who had
raised concerns with the Assembly’s position on the election and
post-election developments in Armenia urging a more sensible and
equitable stance, looked like an attempt to quash dissent from the
corporate line on the subject. (See `Armen Kharazian: Armenia’s
Democratic Development is a Priority,’ Zhamanak daily, May 3, 2008,
available from: ). Another signatory
to this letter, however, the Armenian General Benevolent Union,
subsequently devoted an issue of its AGBU Magazine (April) to
post-election developments, providing a thorough and unbiased analysis
of the events and their aftermath.
50 `Dashnak Leader Resigns from Parliament Post,’ RFE/RL, February 22,
52 `New Armenian Coalition Takes Shape,’ RFE/RL, March 21, 2008.
53 `New Armenian Cabinet Formed,’ RFE/RL, April 21, 2008.
54 `New Armenian Cabinet Wins Vote of Confidence,’ RFE/RL, April 30,
55 `Opposition Makes Demands,’ Azg, March 25, 2008.
56 `Prosecutors Insist On Opposition `Hypnosis’ Of Armenians,’ RFE/RL,
July 8, 2008 referring to an interview given by the Prosecutor General
to Aravot daily on July 8 (in Armenian).
57 `Ter-Petrossian `Ready’ to Talk to Government,’ RFE/RL, May 2, 2008.
58 `Armenian Opposition Resumes Non-Stop Protests,’ RFE/RL, July 4,
59 `Demirchian Cool Towards Opposition Party Merger,’ RFE/RL, May 9,
60 `European Court Judges in Favor of Closed Armenian TV,’ RFE/RL, June
61 `Government Official Downplays Legal Defeat in Strasbourg,’ RFE/RL,
June 18, 2008.
62 It is also not clear yet whether these reforms are here to stay.
While certainly welcome, it remains to be seen whether these measures
will lead to substantive changes of the reality on the ground, as
opposed to simply being window dressing intended to divert the attention
of citizenry and the outside observers from the more important political
63 `Gallup Survey: `Atmosphere of Fear’ or `Provocation’?’
ArmeniaNow.com, June 13, 2008.
64 Frustrated by the unwillingness of the PACE to take action against
the authorities in Yerevan, Raffi Hovannisian, the only opposition
member of Armenia’s delegation at the PACE, walked out of the June 25
hearings in protest. In criticizing the two co-sponsors of the recent
PACE resolutions on Armenia, Ter-Petrossian called them `defense
lawyers’ of the administration in Yerevan (`Opposition Leader Adamant In
Boycotting PACE,’ RFE/RL, July 7, 2008).
65 `Dashnaks Warn Sarkisian Over Armenian Genocide Study,’ RFE/RL, July
66 To avoid any conflict of interest and enhance the credibility of the
effort, members of this provisional administration could announce that
they will not participate in the upcoming election (which they are
appointed to administer), or become members of the cabinet that would be
appointed by the National Assembly (to be elected as a result of those
67 Available on website for Hetq Online Investigative Journalists of
Armenia Reprinted with
68 Available on the website for Human Rights in Armenia
;id=1 7784. Reprinted with permission.