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EU Hails Armenia’s ‘Historic’ Election Deal


Armenia - Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, speaks in Yerevan, 4Jul2016.

Armenia - Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, speaks in Yerevan, 4Jul2016.

The European Union said on Monday that it is prepared to finance the implementation of a compromise agreement on the proper conduct of next year’s parliamentary election reached by Armenia’s government and opposition.

“The agreement reached between the government and the opposition has been widely regarded outside Armenia as a historic deal,” the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, Piotr Switalski, told reporters.

Switalski referred to a set of significant amendments to Armenia’s new Electoral Code worked out by the two sides in an effort to prevent or minimize vote irregularities. He said they bode well for the freedom and fairness of the Armenian elections due in April 2017.

The most important of those amendments call for the introduction of a biometric registry of voters which is supposed to prevent multiple voting by government loyalists. This would be done through electronic machines that check voters’ identity through new, plastic ID cards containing their fingerprints.

The authorities also agreed to install video cameras in all of Armenia’s 2,000 or so polling stations and ensure live broadcasts of voting and ballot counting there through the Internet.

Armenian government officials have warned that the amendments will be annulled unless foreign donors allocate by September the bulk of an estimated $16 million needed for the purchase of the special anti-fraud equipment.

“I hope that the financial side of the issue will find a constructive solution,” Switalski said in this regard. “The European Union is ready to provide considerable funding for implementing the agreement.”

“Besides, I think that a number of individual states are also ready to financially support the agreement,” he added.

The diplomat did not give any figures. He said only that he is optimistic about the implementation of the election deal.

A leader of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), one of the three parliamentary opposition parties that negotiated the deal last month, also sounded upbeat when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) late last week.

Levon Zurabian said the donors have already agreed to provide $9 million of the required sum, compared with $3 million promised by the Armenian government. The latter should be able to raise or allocate the remaining $4 million, said Zurabian.

Zurabian also stressed that sufficient funding alone would not guarantee the deal’s implementation. “We must monitor the quality of that equipment and software,” he said.

Switalski likewise spoke of “very serious” logistical challenges lying ahead. It will take “very hard work and a big dedication” to overcome them, he said.

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