By Karine Kalantarian
The Commonwealth of Independent States will monitor Armenia’s upcoming parliamentary elections with a record-high number of observers, the executive secretary of the Russian-led grouping of 12 ex-Soviet states said on Thursday.
Unlike the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, CIS observers made positive assessments of the Armenian authorities’ handling of the previous parliamentary and parliamentary elections that were marred by reports of serious irregularities. Their findings were welcomed by the authorities but rejected as a fraud by the Armenian opposition.
Visiting Yerevan, Vladimir Rushaylo, the CIS’s Russian executive secretary, said the organization plans to deploy some 200 observers for the May 12 elections, far more than it did in the past. “We have not yet determined the total number of short-term observers who will be working on voting day, but I think there will be at least 150 of them,” he told reporters after a meeting with the chairman of Armenia’s Central Election Commission. The CIS mission will for the first time have about 30 long-term observers, he said.
In addition, Russia revealed earlier this week its intention to fully use its 10 percent participation quota in a 330-strong observer mission planned by the OSCE for the Armenian elections. Moscow has criticized the OSCE for questioning the legitimacy of elections held in Armenia and other ex-Soviet republics with pro-Russian governments.
Rushaylo dismissed Armenian opposition claims that the main purpose of CIS election monitoring is to legitimize ex-Soviet leaders’ grip on power. “We assure you that we do not draft our [election] statements beforehand, as speculated by some,” said the former Russian interior minister.
Preparations for the parliamentary elections reportedly dominated Rushaylo’s separate meetings later in the day with President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. According to Sarkisian’s office, Rushaylo thanked the Armenian government for its “constructive cooperation” with CIS observers.