By Emil Danielyan
Observers from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) have reaffirmed their largely positive assessment of the Armenian authorities’ handling of the May 12 parliamentary elections, while noting major irregularities in the vote count and tabulation.
“The Parliamentary elections in Armenia, held on 12 May 2007, were largely held in line with Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections, although shortcomings remain,” they said in a report unveiled at the ongoing PACE session in Strasbourg on Monday.
“The Armenian Authorities, as well as other electoral stakeholders, showed the political will to address previous shortcomings and to improve the conduct of these elections, although some issues remain unaddressed,” concluded the report.
The nearly three dozen PACE members monitored the elections as part of the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) that also comprised representatives of the OSCE and the European Parliament. In its preliminary May 13 report, the IEOM concluded that the vote largely conformed to democratic standards.
Still, the OSCE observers, who accounted for the bulk of the 400-strong IEOM, toned down the praise in a subsequent follow-up statement. They said counting of ballots in a large number of polling stations and their subsequent tabulation by district election commissions was deeply flawed.
The PACE monitors echoed the criticism, saying that the vote count was “protracted in most cases.” They reported “significant errors” in 8 percent of polling stations observed and “deliberate falsifications of the results” in some of those precincts.
“Regrettably, the situation deteriorated during the tabulation process,” the report said, adding that the process was “generally disorganized.”
Like their OSCE colleagues, the PACE observers deplored the “inexplicable” delay in the publication by Armenia’s Central Election Commission of precinct-by-precinct vote results from Yerevan. “In addition, by a decision of the CEC, the special computer network was not used by the Yerevan [district election commissions] to enter their results,” read their report.
The report also contains a list of recommendations which its authors believe would further improve the conduct of Armenian elections. In particular, they urged the authorities in Yerevan to enact more amendments to Armenia’s Election Code, ensure a proper vote count and tabulation, investigate reports of vote irregularities, and address “intertwinement, at all levels, of political and business interests.” The report also called on the country’s government-controlled electronic media to set less “exorbitant” prices of campaign advertising by political parties and individual candidates.