By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian on Friday assured European diplomats in Yerevan that his government will allow the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to conduct a comprehensive monitoring of Armenia’s next parliamentary and presidential elections.
The assurances came in response to apparent Western concerns about Yerevan’s failure so far to formally ask the OSCE to send observers for the parliamentary elections slated for next spring.
The U.S. ambassador to the OSCE headquarters in Vienna, Julie Finley, exposed those concerns as she visited Armenia last week, stressing the need for a “long-term” observation of the polls. “The OSCE is the gold standard for monitoring elections,” Finley said. “They are coming to the United States to monitor our mid-term elections in November. Why the heck shouldn’t they be over here to monitor the Armenian elections?”
Vladimir Pryakhin, head of the OSCE office in Yerevan, echoed those worries at a meeting with parliament speaker Tigran Torosian. A written statement by the office quoted Pryakhin as saying that the OSCE can send an observation mission “provided an invitation was issued by the Armenian authorities in a timely manner.”
Torosian and other Armenian officials said that Yerevan has not sent such invitations because no date has been set for the parliamentary elections yet.
The issue was apparently high on the agenda of Kocharian’s Friday meeting with the Yerevan-based ambassadors of European Union countries. Kocharian was quoted by his press office as telling them that “both long-term and short-term international monitoring missions will be invited for the observation of electoral processes” in Armenia. The office said participants of the meeting “emphasized the need to hold the upcoming national elections in a free and fair manner.”
The EU has made it clear that failure of those polls to meet democratic standards would jeopardize Armenia’s participation in its European Neighborhood Policy program of preferential ties with the bloc’s neighbors.
Western observers acting under the OSCE aegis have criticized as undemocratic just about every presidential and parliamentary election held in Armenia since its independence. Their findings have been endorsed by both the EU and the United States.