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By Anush Dashtents
A consignment of 2,000 transparent ballot boxes, which Western governments hope will complicate possible irregularities in next week’s presidential elections, was shipped to Yerevan on Tuesday and will be distributed to electoral bodies across Armenia in the coming days.

The German-made plastic boxes, shipped by air, were officially handed over to the Armenian Central Election Commission by representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which has deployed the largest Western-led election monitoring mission in Armenia. The ceremony at Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport was also attended by the ambassadors of the United States and Germany whose governments, along with those of Norway and Switzerland, paid for the shipment.

“It’s our small contribution to the transparency of the elections. Let you have it,” the British head of the OSCE office in Yerevan, Roy Reeve, told the CEC’s deputy chairman, Hamlet Abrahamian.

Reeve and other Western diplomats declined to reveal the cost of the ballot boxes, saying that it is not significant.

The CEC agreed to install transparent ballot boxes last week at the urging of the OSCE’s monitoring mission which views them as an additional safeguard against fraud. Representatives of the opposition presidential candidates welcomed the move.

The German ambassador to Armenia, Hans Bartels, told reporters that Armenians will have greater confidence in the fairness of the electoral process when they go to the polls on February 19. His U.S. counterpart, John Ordway, also stressed the importance of the new ballot boxes.

Ordway also said that the U.S. government will provide $1 million in additional funding for the CEC and other lower-level election commissions. He said the money will be spent on the purchase of telephones, fax machines and other electronic equipment.

(Photolur photo: OSCE's Reeve inspecting the ballot boxes.)
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