The chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Tigran Mukuchian, accused international observers at the weekend of painting an excessively negative picture of the run-up to Armenia’s parliamentary elections.
Mukuchian said an interim report released by the election observation mission deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe contains major “inaccuracies” and does not properly recognize the “positive” election-related work done by the Armenian authorities.
“They focused on certain negative opinions and examples that are in effect exceptions in the general picture,” Mukuchian told a news conference. “The tone of the report, even if it notes positive developments, does not allow one to fully grasp the whole essence of all the positive things,” he said.
The OSCE report says, among other things, that public-sector employees in various parts of the country have been forced to attend campaign rallies held by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and cites other instances of the HHK’s “use of administrative resources.” It also questions CEC’s refusal to register an opposition election candidate and accredit some local non-governmental organizations as election monitors.
“These are all isolated cases and this report does not show any violations of institutional nature resulting from pre-planned and organized activities,” complained Mukuchian.
The CEC went on to refute some concrete violations reported by long-term observers representing the OSCE’s Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). In particular, he claimed that students and teachers in the town of Echmiadzin were not released from school to attend an HHK rally held there on April 11. Mukuchian also insisted that the HHK did not place flags and campaign posters on schools and local government buildings.
School teachers and students have been a fixture at HHK rallies across the country featuring speeches by President Serzh Sarkisian. According to Armenian media reports, they are ordered by school principals to attend those gatherings.
The OSCE mission was otherwise largely satisfied with the course of the campaign so far. It said the election contenders are “generally able to campaign” and praised the CEC and its territorial divisions for working “in an open and transparent manner.”