By Emil Danielyan
The head of the largest international mission monitoring Armenia’s presidential election said Monday that the official results of its February 19 first round contain some “significant” discrepancies which have not yet been explained by the Central Election Commission.
“We have already found some discrepancies which are of concern to us,” Peter Eicher, who heads a team of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told RFE/RL. “There do seem to be some mistakes in the final results as they were reported, and we are discussing this with the Central Election Commission.”
“There were over a hundred polling stations where there were more ballots in the ballot box than were given to voters,” Eicher said. Asked whether the OSCE mission thinks there was ballot box stuffing in those precincts, he replied: “We know that there were instances of ballot box stuffing,
but we were not there at all of these polling stations to be able to draw a conclusion on all of them.”
Ballot box stuffing was one of the most common forms of irregularity reported by international and local election observers in the wake of the first round.
Eicher would not say whether those discrepancies could have affected the official results which gave President Robert Kocharian 49.5 percent of the vote. “It’s impossible for me to tell with the figures I have so far,” he said. “One of the problems is that they (the CEC) never did publish the detailed preliminary results down the polling station level…So there was a general lack of transparency in how the tabulation was done which makes it hard to do a careful check.”
“We are still awaiting full explanations for these discrepancies,” the OSCE official added. “I would certainly like to see answers to these discrepancies before the second round.”
Eicher also pointed to what he described as “implausible results” in dozens of polling stations where official figures showed unusually high voter turnouts and percentage of votes cast for the incumbent.
Turning to the upcoming run-off, Eicher again complained that the authorities are doing little to punish those guilty of reported fraud. “I have expressed my concerns that with all of the violations we saw on election night, there hasn’t been any clear effort to hold accountable those who were responsible for these violations,” he said. “Some of the same individuals will still be in charge in some of the same polling stations where we saw some of the violations.”