The United States said on Monday that it will join European donors in financing the purchase of special equipment meant to prevent serious fraud in next year’s Armenian parliamentary elections.
The funding will support the implementation a landmark agreement on the proper conduct of the April 2017 vote which was signed by the Armenian government and three leading opposition parties in September.
The deal took the form of amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code which were passed by the National Assembly last month. The most significant of those amendments aims to preclude multiple voting by government supporters through the publication of the names of those voters that have cast ballots, according to official protocols. Opposition parties will be able to verify whether those voters actually live in Armenia.
The amended code also mandates live online broadcasts of voting and ballot counting in all 2,000 or so polling stations across the country.
Echoing statements by the European Union, the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan praised the election deal as a “meaningful step towards restoring public trust and accountability in Armenia’s electoral processes.”
“With our fellow international donors … the U.S. Embassy will help fund the efforts of the Armenian government, political opposition, and civil society to strengthen trust in the Armenian electoral process via same-day voter authentication and the publication of signed voter lists after the elections,” it said in a statement. The statement did not specify the amount of U.S. funding.
Opposition representatives said earlier that Western donors are ready to provide about $10 million for the deal’s implementation. They said the money will mostly go to pay for equipment required for live online broadcasts of voting and ballot counting as well as electronic verification of voters’ identity.
Like Armenian opposition leaders, the U.S. Embassy cautioned that the recently enacted amendments alone do not guarantee the freedom and fairness of the upcoming elections. “It is a matter of political will,” it said. “Fundamentally, the burden is on the government and its constituent institutions … to ensure the Armenian people’s free expression of choice at the voting booth.”
“The U.S. Embassy agrees with President [Serzh] Sarkisian’s assessment that the “forthcoming elections will shape the future” of the Armenian state,” added the statement.
Visiting Yerevan earlier this month, Bridget Brink, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, expressed hope that the upcoming Armenian elections will meet democratic standards.
“I believe that a transparent, free and fair election would be a powerful, positive signal that Armenia is strongly committed to democracy just as America starts a new presidential administration,” she said.