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Local Observers Slam ‘Disgraceful’ Vote


Armenia - Avetik Ishkhanian (R) and other local election observers at a news conference in Yerevan, 6May2013.

Armenia - Avetik Ishkhanian (R) and other local election observers at a news conference in Yerevan, 6May2013.

Leading Armenian civic organizations described the mayoral elections in Yerevan as undemocratic on Monday, alleging widespread vote buying, multiple voting and other irregularities that benefited the ruling Republican Party (HHK).

The independent groups deployed hundreds of observers in polling stations across the capital on election day.

“Our joint assessment is that these elections absolutely did not meet democratic standards,” Avetik Ishkhanian of the Armenian Helsinki Committee told a joint news conference of their leaders.

“Once again we had disgraceful elections. We keep getting surprised with how diverse election violations can be,” said Sona Ayvazian, deputy director of the Anti-Corruption Center (ACC), the Armenian affiliate of the Berlin-based Transparency International.

“We witnessed cases of [multiple] ‘carousel’ voting and use of pen ink of different colors,” she claimed. “Overcrowding [at polling stations] was widespread. People were ferried to polling stations, including by taxis. Multiple voting was a regular occurrence.”

According to Ayvazian, ACC monitors, who watched voting in 4 of Yerevan’s 13 electoral districts, lodged over 40 complaints with relevant election bodies. Some of those observers were threatened and bullied by groups of pro-government youths, she said.

Ishkhanian noted that the presence of such men outside polling stations, a common scene across the city, was illegal. He too claimed that vote buying and multiple voting were commonplace. “In Davitashen [district,] the same people voted in various polling stations,” he said.

Ishkhanian, who is a veteran human rights campaigner, went on to allege that Sunday’s vote was more fraudulent than the February 18 presidential election. He said this is the reason why the ruling HHK and its top candidate, Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian, received, according to official results, more votes than President Serzh Sarkisian did in Yerevan in the presidential ballot.

“Because of that strong effort, Taron Markarian beat Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan,” added Ishkhanian.
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