By Emil Danielyan
A senior Western diplomat painted on Monday a mixed picture of post-Soviet political reform in Armenia, saying that the country has advanced “in some areas” but has still a long way to go in building a democratic order based on the rule of law.
Ambassador Roy Reeve, the outgoing head of the Yerevan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, pointedly declined to mention elections among the areas where he believes the Armenian authorities have made progress towards meeting their OSCE commitments. He said there is still “much to be done” in bringing the Armenian electoral process up to democratic standards.
“It’s a sort of an uneven picture,” Reeve told a farewell news conference in Yerevan. “In certain areas, we can point back and say, ‘If we hadn’t been here, then perhaps this wouldn’t have happened’. In other areas, we have to continue to try to move things forward.”
The British diplomat made the remarks when asked to compare the current situation with the one which existed in early 2000, when he took over as the first head of the OSCE’s newly opened mission in Armenia. The office has since been working with the Armenian authorities and civil society representatives to promote democratization, protection of human rights and other political reforms.
The authorities’ commitment to those objective was put to the test earlier this year with the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections. Both elections were marred by serious fraud and judged to have fallen short of democratic standards by separate OSCE observer missions. Their findings are at the heart of international criticism directed at official Yerevan in recent months.
Reeve, mindful of its negative implications, sought to differentiate between the authorities’ handling of the polls and the broader reform process. “I wouldn’t put elections and democracy in the same sentence,” he said. “I think there are certain things which have happened in terms of democratization within Armenia which are certainly advances.”
“On the election side, I agree that there are things which still do need to be achieved,” Reeve added. He said in particular that Armenia should amend its electoral legislation “very soon” in order to avoid more such problems in the future.
Reeve, who has already been named to run a similar OSCE mission in neighboring Georgia, also made it clear that new and better laws alone can not improve the situation. “Passing legislation is the easiest thing,” he said. “It’s monitoring the implementation of that legislation which is the most long-term and problematic area.”