By Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenia’s largest election-monitoring organization said on Tuesday that it will observe the May 12 parliamentary elections with a record-high number of volunteers.
The group, It’s Your Choice (IYC), plans to deploy observers in virtually all of the country’s 2,000 or so polling stations on voting day. It was able to cover only between 60 and 70 percent of the precincts during previous Armenian elections.
According to the IYC chairman, Harutiun Hambartsumian, the effort will require the mobilization of as many as 4,000 people committed to fostering democratic change in Armenia. The number of IYC observers has been considerably lower in the past.
Speaking to journalists, Hambartsumian said his Western-funded organization hopes that the forthcoming elections will mark a major improvement over the previous polls that were marred by serious irregularities reported by both domestic and international observers. “Unfortunately, up until now we have reported more shortcomings than positive things,” he said.
Hambartsumian expressed concern about some of the recently passed amendments to Armenia’s electoral code that were supposed to complicate fraud. He was particularly critical of a provision allowing various-level commissions to meet and make decisions without a quorum.
The IYC’s most recent vote monitoring report came in the wake of the disputed constitutional referendum of November 2005. The 12-page report concluded that the vote failed short of democratic standards because of “serious violations of the electoral process, illegal voting and especially ballot box stuffing.”
The Armenian elections will also be monitored by over 300 Western observers representing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Their findings will be particularly important for the international legitimacy of the vote. The first long-term OSCE observers are expected to arrive in Yerevan next week.