Observers from the Council of Europe were cautious on Monday in evaluating the weekend municipal elections in Yerevan, praising technical aspects of their conduct but reserving judgment on their freedom and fairness.
The 12 observers deployed by the Strasbourg-based organization’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE) were the only international mission that monitored the vote. They visited over 100 polling stations across Yerevan on election day.
“With the exception of a few incidents in those polling stations visited by the observation team of the Congress, the vote was carried out in a calm and orderly manner and the elections were technically well-prepared,” Stewart Dickson, the British head of the mission, said, presenting its preliminary conclusions.
Dickson stressed that this assessment applies to “what we saw in respect of the election material, the distribution of ballot papers and the secrecy of how people voted.” “It was just the technicalities of the paper,” he said. “It was not a comment on the overall outcome of the election.”
Dickson said that the Council of Europe mission will give its overall election verdict in a final report that will be issued later this year. “This is only an interim report,” he said. “When we have considered fully all of the observation team’s individual reports, together with information which [Armenian] parties are welcome to feed back to us, it is then and only then we will be in a position to give a broad assessment of the totality of the election.”
The European observers met with representatives of all election contenders and senior Armenian government officials ahead of the May 5 polls.
Dickson praised the Armenian authorities for ensuring that all major opposition parties are represented in precinct election commissions. But he also cited opposition allegations of misuse of administrative resources and vote buying by the ruling Republican Party.
“In respect to these allegations we urge the Armenian authorities to put an end to this situation in order to ensure an electoral climate without intimidation or cash incentives,” added Dickson. “Regardless of this being either reality or perception, it undermines the trust of the citizen in the electoral system and is therefore harmful.”