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Armenian authorities will not invite the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor next month’s mayoral elections in Yerevan, officials said on Thursday.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) confirmed that such invitations have only been sent to the heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Armenia as well as the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Administrations.

The OSCE and its Warsaw-based Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) have been the main international body to monitor just about every presidential and parliamentary election held in Armenia since independence. The findings of hundreds of observers deployed by the OSCE/ODIHR have greatly influenced the international and domestic legitimacy of those elections.

“In general, the ODIHR carries out monitoring missions during national elections,” Tatev Ohanian, a spokesman for the CEC, said, explaining its decision not invite OSCE observes for the May 31 elections of Yerevan’s new municipal assembly. “That is true for not only Armenia but also other countries.”

“Local elections are usually monitored by the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Administrations,” Ohanian told RFE/RL.

The OSCE monitored local polls held in Albania and Moldova in 2007.

“No invitation has been sent to the OSCE as a whole or the ODIHR,” said Sergey Kapinos, head of the OSCE office in Yerevan. “That is why we will confine ourselves to the kind of monitoring which we carried out during recent local elections in Armenia. Namely, with the personnel of the OSCE office in Yerevan.”

The forthcoming polls in Yerevan will be different from those elections in that they will involve at least one third of the country’s electorate. The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has pledged to turn them into a “second round” of last year’s disputed presidential election that triggered massive anti-government protests in the capital. The HAK on Wednesday declined to comment on the authorities’ decision not to invite OSCE observers this time around.

Kapinos said that the proper conduct of the municipal elections is “very important” for the OSCE and the broader international community. “I sincerely hope that the elections will take place in accordance with the letter of the law, that there will be no violations and that all election contenders will be guided by legal norms,” he told RFE/RL.
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