By Anush Dashtents
The head of Armenia’s main electoral body assured international monitors on Thursday that it will handle the upcoming presidential elections in a legal and transparent manner.
However, he apparently stopped short of promising to publish a complete breakdown of vote results from all polling stations scattered around the country. That, according to the monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, would be a serious safeguard against possible vote rigging.
Artak Sahradian, chairman of the Armenian Central Election Commission (CEC), told the mission chief, Peter Eicher, that information from more than 2,000 electoral precincts will be “open” to the public. He said it will be made available to the OSCE observers and the media without undue delays as was often the case in the past.
Eicher, announcing the start of the OSCE-led monitoring process on Monday, said that “one very simple thing” the CEC should do to preclude fraud is to release vote results on a detailed, precinct-by-precinct basis. Meeting with Sahradian, he again stressed the importance of “complete of and accurate” polling data.
Opposition candidates and their proxies claim that election results in Armenia are falsified mainly during the tabulation and counting of votes, with government-controlled electoral bodies fixing numbers in vote protocols. The authorities always denied the charges.
A CEC spokeswoman told RFE/RL on Thursday that Armenian journalists will be able to obtain vote protocols from any precinct commission. But she would not say whether those protocols will be put together and publicized by the CEC in a single document.
The Eicher-led mission, whose findings will be crucial for the international legitimacy of the February 19 ballot, currently includes 26 long-term election monitors from 16 OSCE member countries, including the United States. They are expected to be joined by some 250 short-term monitors on the eve of the voting.
(Photolur photo: Sahradian, right, greeting Eicher in the CEC office.)