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EU Envoy Upbeat On Armenian Vote Broadcasts


Armenia - Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, speaks at an economic forum in Yerevan, 20Oct2016.

Armenia - Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Armenia, speaks at an economic forum in Yerevan, 20Oct2016.

Armenia’s government and opposition are trying hard to overcome a financial obstacle to live online broadcasts of voting and ballot counting in the upcoming parliamentary elections, a senior European Union diplomat said on Tuesday.

The Armenian authorities 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 electoral fraud.

A senior government official warned last week, however, that they may be unable to do that due to financial reasons. He said that a single private company interested in providing and operating the broadcasting equipment has set a disproportionately high price for its services.

A special multi-partisan commission of the Armenian parliament implementing the September deal has been scrambling to lower the asking price.

“To my knowledge, a very intensive dialogue has been conducted in recent days,” Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, told reporters. He said the commission, in which the parliamentary opposition and the government are equally represented, appears to have reached a consensus on “the best solution.”

“I think that by the end of this week we will have clarity on what is doable and whether it is doable,” added the diplomat.

Some opposition leaders have suggested that the government exempt the web cameras and other equipment needed for the planned broadcasts from import duties. According to Switalski, the government has reacted constructively to this idea.

As part of its landmark agreement with three opposition parties, the authorities in Yerevan are also due to introduce 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 stave off multiple voting by government loyalists, an illegal practice which the Armenian opposition says was widespread in previous elections.

The authorities have assured the opposition and media that they will definitely install electronic machines for voter identification. The EU and the United States have promised millions of dollars in funding for the purchase of such equipment.

Switalski reiterated on Tuesday that the conduct of “good, fair, just, and transparent elections” would give a major boost to Armenia’s relations with the EU.

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