The number of eligible voters officially registered in Armenia has increased by nearly seven percent since the last national election four years ago, according to the voter lists updated ahead of the upcoming parliamentary polls.
The voter rolls posted on the official websites of the Armenian Police and the Central Election Commission show that the number of people in Armenia allowed to vote in the May 6 elections is just over 2,485,000 – an increase by more than 165,000 voters as compared to the official figure reported before the 2008 presidential election.
A number of opposition media and analysts have cast doubts over the possibility of such an appreciable rise, considering the preliminary data of the October 2011 census that show Armenia’s permanent population dwindling by some 415,000 to around 2,870,000 over the 10-year period. They also challenge the assumption that only less than 400,000 people in the country are actually below Armenia’s national voting age of 18.
Meanwhile, head of the Passport and Visa Department of the Armenian Police Hovannes Kocharian dismissed the speculation about any kind of deliberate distortion of the electoral rolls to meet the interests of the ruling political force or any other groups. He explained the essential rise in the number of voters by a more meticulous registration of citizens in Armenia in the past four years.
“A total of 359,614 voters, who weren’t on the 2008 lists, have been added to the register by this year,” he said.
The police colonel explained that the rise reflects stricter registration requirements for people seeking various government benefits and also applying for receiving a passport.
Acknowledging that inaccuracies were still possible in the lists, Kocharian ruled out any deliberate action to include dead or non-existing people in them – a claim that has dogged the Armenian authorities during virtually all previous national and local elections.
At the same time, the official also excluded that a large number of people could possess two or more valid passports to be able to vote several times in the upcoming elections. Any police official caught committing such fraud will be severely punished, he emphasized.
Addressing a group of senior police officers last week, Chief of the Armenian Police Vladimir Gasparian warned his subordinates to stick to political neutrality during the entire course of the electoral process in Armenia. He, in particular, stressed the importance of ensuring the accuracy of voter registers, calling on police officials to take it as a matter of their “personal responsibility”.
Still, different opposition groups, including the Armenian National Congress, have cast doubts over the veracity of the electoral rolls presented by the authorities. They again accuse the government of trying to rig the vote by inflating the official number of registered voters.