The head of Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) insisted on Friday that the April 2 parliamentary elections will be transparent even if the authorities fail to ensure live online broadcasts of voting and ballot counting.
The Armenian government agreed to install web cameras in all 2,000 or so polling stations across the country as part of a September 2016 deal with the opposition aimed at preventing serious fraud. The chief of the government staff, Davit Harutiunian, warned on Wednesday, however, that they may be unable to do that due to financial reasons.
Harutiunian argued that only one private company has showed an interest in providing and operating the broadcasting equipment. The cost of these services set by that bidder is too high for the government, he said.
A special multi-partisan commission handling the bidding still hopes to convince the potential broadcast operator to cut its asking price.
“Of course, if will be very good if those cameras are installed in the polling stations,” said Tigran Mukuchian, the CEC chairman. “Will their absence have an impact in terms of transparency? I think that even without [the broadcasts] the Electoral Code contains provisions which enable all participants of the electoral process to monitor proceedings.”
In particular, the recently amended code calls for an electronic verification of voters’ identity and publication of the names of those voters who will have cast ballots on election day. These measures are meant to prevent multiple voting by government loyalists, an illegal practice which the Armenian opposition says was widespread in previous elections.
Harutiunian insisted on Wednesday that the authorities will definitely install electronic machines for voter identification.
The European Union and the United States have promised millions of dollars in funding for the purchase of such equipment.