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Armenian Referendum Rigged, Insist Local Observers


Armenia -- A woman casts a ballot in a constitutional referendum, Yerevan, 6Dec2015.

Armenia -- A woman casts a ballot in a constitutional referendum, Yerevan, 6Dec2015.

A coalition of Armenian civic organizations that deployed the largest monitoring team during the December 6 referendum in Armenia on Thursday again rejected as fraudulent its official results showing a “Yes” vote for President Serzh Sarkisian’s constitutional changes.

“The official results of the referendum do not reflect the will of the citizens of Armenia,” the Citizen Observer Initiative charged in its final report. “The official results are largely imposed and falsified, and the referendum and the document adopted through it are not legitimate.”

“The observation mission recorded gross, multiple, and widespread examples of voting violations and electoral fraud, unprecedented in recent years and seemingly forgotten,” it said.

The 90-page report reaffirms the preliminary findings of the mission that were presented the day after the referendum. The Citizen Observer Initiative monitored the vote with about a dozen volunteers deployed at more than a quarter of Armenia’s 2,000 polling stations.

According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), just over half of the country’s 2.5 million eligible voters voted in the referendum and around two-thirds of them backed Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system envisaged by the amendments. The voter turnout registered by the CEC was just enough to make the ballot valid.

The Citizen Observer, which was set up in 2013 by Transparency International’s Armenian affiliate and three other non-governmental organizations, said its monitors documented more than a thousand irregularities during the voting and counting of ballots. It said those included ballot box stuffing, vote buying, violence, multiple voting, and forgery of vote result protocols.

The NGO coalition specifically challenged the validity of such protocols signed by election officials in 258 polling stations. Armenian courts have failed to conduct “proper investigations” into the vast majority of the reported violations, it claimed.

Opposition groups campaigning against the constitutional reform have also dismissed the official results, accusing the Armenian authorities of rigging the referendum. One of them, the Armenian National Congress (HAK), has tried unsuccessfully to have the CEC and the Constitutional Court invalidate the vote.

President Sarkisian, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and their allies strongly deny the fraud allegations.

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