By Nane Atshemian
A local monitoring group has slashed last Sunday’s local elections in Armenia as undemocratic contradicting the earlier conclusion drawn by international observers.
“Choice is Yours” stated on Tuesday that the October 16 elections in three regions of Armenia were held “in an atmosphere of extreme tension and intolerance, with hindrances to campaigning candidates and substantial shortcomings in the voter lists.” It also said that violations of the principle of secret ballot and biasness of electoral commission members were a commonplace.
Earlier, on October 17, European observers evaluated Armenia’s local elections as generally satisfactory and peaceful, even mentioning that the electoral process and, in particular, the state of voter lists were mainly satisfactory and were a step forward as compared to the previous elections.
“The local elections were generally in keeping with the Council of Europe’s electoral standards. The electoral process was generally satisfactory,” Sean O’Brien, head of the delegation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, stated on Monday.
Meanwhile, “Choice is Yours” Chairman Harutiun Hambartsumian said their organization had performed a long-term mission following the electioneering stage as well.
In his opinion, taking into account the peculiarities of local elections ‘a foreigner cannot see what is seen by a local, he doesn’t speak the language and his contact with people is limited.’
Besides, he said, polling precincts have a clear instruction to show caution in the presence of international observers.
“Let’s not compare these local elections to the presidential elections, because then there was ample evidence of the entire state machinery being employed in the process, while administrative resources are used on a smaller scale in local elections,” Hambartsumian said.
“Choice is Yours” finds that mayoral elections in Echmiadzin were conducted with particularly brazen violations and abuses.
The organization’s vice-chairman Khachik Voskanian mentioned only several facts that he had witnessed himself.
Thus, he said, the final figure in the voter list was by about 7,000 higher than in the preliminary one. In another instance, as many as 200 voters at one polling precinct turned to be registered in the same apartment and the registration seals in their passports looked ‘dubious’.
“The stamps on their passports did not specifically mention the day of their registration, nor did they mention in what conditions they were registered,” said Voskanian. “We tried to find out from these voters where they had got these registrations from, but they were too afraid to talk to us.”