Observers: "Undue Interference In Voting Process"


02:32 pm | Today | Politics

Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Armenia featured a vibrant and
largely peaceful campaign, with overall balanced media coverage,
but pressure on voters and a deficient complaints process created an
unequal playing field, the international election observers said today,
international observers told a press conference in Yerevan.

“Observers noted a campaign environment that generally respected
freedoms of assembly and expression and candidates were, for the most
part, able to campaign freely. But the general lack of confidence
in the integrity of the process amongst political parties and the
general public is an issue of great concern.

The elections were held under a new Electoral Code that provided
a sound legal framework for conducting democratic elections, but
stakeholders failed to implement important aspects of the new law and
the manner in which complaints were dealt with undermined the right
to effective legal redress.

“Armenia deserves recognition for its electoral reforms and its
open and peaceful campaign environment but, in this race, several
stakeholders too often failed to comply with the law and election
commissions too often failed to enforce it,” said Francois-Xavier de
Donnea, the Special Co-ordinator to lead the short-term OSCE observer
mission and the Head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation. “As
a result, the international commitments to which Armenia has freely
subscribed were not always respected.”

The process of candidate registration was inclusive overall. Despite
improved legislation with regard to voter registration, observers said,
that the accuracy of the voter lists and their potential misuse for
electoral fraud added to the lack of confidence in the process.

“The high turnout of over 60 per cent, the wide age range among voters,
and the clear understanding of the electoral process by young and
old alike were impressive, but reports of widespread interference
with the running of polling stations, voters’ movement and casting of
votes throughout the day by certain political parties raised serious
concerns,” said Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, the Head of the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe delegation. “The
authorities must address this unacceptable behaviour before the
presidential election next year.”

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to see these elections and
our preliminary findings in the broader context and as the beginning
of the process, not the end,” said Krzysztof Lisek, the Head of
the European Parliament delegation. “Our preliminary conclusions
today and the final recommendations of the OSCE Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights, once they are published, should be taken
as the goal to achieve in view of the upcoming presidential election.”

Election day was generally calm and peaceful, but marked by
organizational problems and undue interference in the process, mostly
by party representatives, the observers noted.

“The election campaign was open and respected fundamental freedoms,
and the media offered broad and balanced coverage during the official
campaign period,” said Radmila ekerinska, the Head of the Election
Observation Mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions
and Human Rights.

“Unfortunately, this was overshadowed by concerns over the accuracy
of voter lists and violations of the Electoral Code that created an
unequal playing field.”

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