The chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Tigran Mukuchian, on Wednesday described as confusing a mixed assessment of Armenia’s parliamentary elections that was given by international election observers.
In their preliminary findings presented on Monday, the nearly 300 observers mostly deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe praised the pre-election environment in the country but reported irregularities in a “significant number” of polling stations on voting day.
The Western-led observer mission singled out government loyalists’ “undue interference” in the electoral process and widespread concerns over Armenia’s notoriously inaccurate voter lists. One of the mission heads, Francois-Xavier de Donnea, said Armenian election commissions “too often failed to enforce” the law.
However, in contrast to the previous OSCE reports on Armenian elections, the observers did not say whether or not they think the latest vote met democratic standards.
“Because of their formulations it’s very difficult to understand whether they reported the positive or the negative,” Mukuchian told a news conference. “The emphasis is incomprehensible.”
The CEC chief said he agrees with some conclusions drawn in the OSCE-led mission’s report but cannot accept others. “There are procedures which I think need to be clarified,” he said without elaborating.
Mukuchian similarly criticized late last month an interim pre-election report that was issued by the observers. In particular, he rejected their claims that teachers and other public-sector employees across the country were forced to attend campaign rallies held by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
The Armenian authorities have repeatedly assured Western governments and structures that the May 6 elections will be more democratic than the most recent Armenian polls held in 2007 and 2008. The OSCE described them as largely democratic.
Mukuchian insisted that the parliamentary elections swept by the HHK were the cleanest in Armenia’s history. “We can conclude for certain that the electoral process has never been as transparent, public, visible and controlled as it was this time,” he said.
Armenia’s leading opposition groups will strongly disagree. They claim that the HHK ensured its landslide victory through large-scale vote buying and multiple voting by government supporters.