By Emil Danielyan
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Wednesday that Armenian authorities failed to fulfill their pledge to provide detailed returns from all polling stations immediately after the May 25 parliamentary elections.
In its second post-election report, the OSCE’s election observation mission in Armenia said that further undermined “confidence of election stakeholders in the transparency and accuracy of the tabulation process.” It also reported that vote recounts in about 80 polling stations conducted last week revealed more “verified instances of fraud.”
“In violation of the Electoral Code and an explicit instruction from the Central Election Commission, most [of the 56] Territorial Election Commissions did not publish tabulation of the preliminary results of either the proportional or majoritarian contests broken down by polling station,” the report said. “Instead, only summarized preliminary results were provided, preventing opportunities to confirm or challenge the accuracy of aggregated results from polling stations.”
The CEC unveiled a complete precinct-by-precinct breakdown of election results only after announcing its final vote tally last Saturday, nearly six days after the completion of vote counts across the country. Its chairman, Artak Sahradian, had earlier assured the international observers that the CEC will promptly make available its detailed preliminary figures as well.
Officials from the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) argued that that would seriously complicate possible falsifications in the counting and tabulation processes. They eventually reported “significant violations” of the law in more than a third of 84 polling station counts attended by the Western observers. Those included deliberate miscounting of ballots and forgery of signatures on voter lists.
The report says OSCE observers found more evidence of fraud in a number of recounts demanded by defeated candidates. It also notes that the authorities did not annul results of the party list voting in three constituencies where they ordered repeat elections of individual deputies because of widespread irregularities.
“In the three constituencies where the majoritarian results were annulled, the proportional election results were left to stand and were included in the nationwide totals, despite concerns that falsification had been observed in the results of both contests,” the report reads.
The OSCE observers further questioned the official voter turnout figure of 52.71 percent. The CEC had put the nationwide turnout at just over 30 percent three hours before the closure of polls. The figure shot up to above 50 percent within the next few hours, prompting opposition allegations that the authorities grossly inflated the number of ballots cast in order to add thousands of votes to pro-government parties.
The problems with the vote count and tabulation appear to have been the main reason why the OSCE and PACE missions concluded in a joint report on May 26 that the elections, held in the wake of a hotly disputed presidential ballot, failed to meet international standards. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Tuesday that his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which swept to a landslide victory, “largely agrees” with their findings. But he insisted that the reported irregularities did not affect the outcome of the polls.
However, the HHK victory is challenged by the Armenian opposition and several parties supporting President Robert Kocharian.