Armenia’s parliamentary elections marked an improvement over previous national ballots overshadowed by fraud allegations, the head of a grouping of Europe’s leading liberal parties said on Friday.
“I think it was progress in that it was better than the last set of elections,” Graham Watson, president of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR), told journalists in Yerevan.
Watson cautioned that “a lot still needs to be done” in ensuring the proper conduct of Armenian elections by the authorities. He pointed to irregularities reported by domestic and foreign monitors on election day.
“So we are moving in the right direction but it needs to be quite a lot faster,” added the British politician. “Arguing for gradual development has always been the subterfuge of the authoritarian leader. Armenians are perfectly capable of running a fully democratic society.”
Watson spoke at a joint news conference with Aram Manukian, the chairman of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) party, a key member of the country’s largest opposition alliance which claims that the May 6 vote was as fraudulent as the previous Armenian elections.
The two men met reporters ahead of a two-day meeting in Yerevan of the ELDR’s governing Council. An ELDR statement said that the outcome of the Armenian elections will be “one of the issues debated by the Council.”
The ELDR currently unites 54 liberal parties from 37 countries across Europe. They make up the third largest faction in the European Parliament.
The HHSh, which governed Armenia from 1990-1998, is the only Armenian party affiliated with the pan-European organization. Three other major Armenian parties, including the ruling Republicans (HHK), have an observer status in the conservative European People’s Party (EPP).
EPP President Wilfried Martens on Thursday congratulated the HHK on its landslide victory in the elections and described them as “largely free and fair.”