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Armenian Vote Gets High Marks From Local Monitors


Armenia -- The chairman of It's Your Choice NGO, Harutyun Hambardzumian, at a press conference in Yerevan, 8May2012.

Armenia -- The chairman of It's Your Choice NGO, Harutyun Hambardzumian, at a press conference in Yerevan, 8May2012.

Armenia’s largest vote-monitoring organization said on Tuesday that the weekend parliamentary elections were largely democratic despite various irregularities registered by its volunteers on polling day.

The non-governmental organization, It’s Your Choice, claimed to have deployed 4,000 observers at polling stations across the country.

“Our organization thinks that there were worrisome facts, there were violations but we don’t think that they influenced election results,” its chairman, Harutiun Hambardzumian told a news conference.

“If you compare them with past elections, these elections are really one step forward,” Hambardzumian said. In particular, he said, It’s Your Choice monitors had much better access to polling stations and the voting process than in the past, he said.

Hambardzumian was equally satisfied with the course of the election campaign when he spoke to journalists last week. He said there have been few instances of government officials and loyalists bullying voters, attacking opposition campaigners or obstructing their campaigning.

Hambardzumian had earlier accused the three political parties represented in the government of vote buying. He said on April 4 that the practice is particularly widespread in impoverished rural regions.

Western observers have been more critical of the Armenian authorities’ handling of the polls. In a statement issued on Monday, an observer mission led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported irregularities in a “significant number” of polling stations.

Nevertheless, official Yerevan seems largely satisfied with that verdict. “We looked into the [OSCE] report with interest and are satisfied with its content,” Deputy Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian told journalists late on Monday. “The report acknowledges the vibrant and competitive political environment, diverse media and many other things existing in Armenia. Various shortcomings mentioned in the report will remain on our agenda.”

“There are things with which we may not agree, but this is a process of dialogue … rather than confrontation,” added Mnatsakanian.
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