The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced on Thursday the start of another vote monitoring mission in Armenia that will be crucial for the international legitimacy of the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections.
Radmila Sekerinska, a 39-year-old former politician from Macedonia heading the mission, held her first news conference in Yerevan to present details of what will be the largest international team that will observe and assess the May 6 vote.
“As election observers, we will remain impartial, professional and objective,” she said. “We are interested in the process and not in the election results.”
Sekerinska, who was appointed by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said the mission will comprise 13 election experts, 24 long-term and some 250 short-term observers. As always, the latter will be deployed on the eve of the elections to watch voting and ballot counting.
The first group of OSCE/ODIHR observers has already arrived in Armenia. They as well as other long-term monitors will follow the election campaign, its coverage by the local media and election preparations by the authorities. They will also meet with Armenian state officials, politicians, civic activists and media representatives in the coming weeks.
The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) also plans to monitor the Armenian elections with a 30-strong mission. It is expected to assess the election conduct jointly with the OSCE/ODIHR team.
The Armenian opposition and the Armenian National Congress (HAK) in particular hoped to see a much large number of mostly Western observers. The HAK believes that they should be present in all of Armenia’s 2,000 or so polling stations on election day.
HAK leaders have said that that if the OSCE and the PACE are unable to send such a big observer mission they should at least make sure that their monitors stay in the same polling stations throughout the voting and counting processes, rather than shuttle between various electoral precincts.
Sekerinska insisted, however, that the planned number of the OSCE/ODIHR observers is sufficient. She also indicated that the OSCE will not change its monitoring methodology in Armenia.
“The ODIHR and the OSCE are not an election police,” said the mission chief. “Nor are they substitutes. We are guided by our standard methodology.”
“It is our assessment, of course, that these numbers provide us with a good basis to deliver our mandate,” Sekerinska told reporters. “In the case of irregularities it is the authorities, the domestic observers, the local actors that must respond to them,” she added.
The OSCE and PACE observer missions described Armenia’s last presidential and parliamentary elections as largely democratic. The Armenian opposition strongly disputed those verdicts.
The Armenian government has pledged to do its best to ensure the proper conduct of the May elections. President Serzh Sarkisian said late last year that the government’s objective is to have them judged fully democratic by the OSCE.