By Karine Kalantarian
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced Wednesday the start of its observation mission for the May 12 parliamentary elections in Armenia which it hopes will be more democratic than the ones held until now.
As always, the crucial mission will be organized and led by the OSCE’s election-monitoring body, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). It has already deployed 13 election experts for that purpose. They will be joined by 29 long-term observers from various OSCE member states later this week.
The Warsaw-based body also plans to dispatch some 300 short-term European and American observers to polling stations across Armenia on voting day. This is slightly more than the number of OSCE/ODIHR observers who monitored the previous Armenian parliamentary elections of May 2003. In addition, small groups of monitors are due to be deployed by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe, and possibly the European Parliament.
Ambassador Boris Frlec, a Slovenian diplomat who will head the OSCE/ODIHR mission, expressed hope that the elections will mark significant improvement over the previous Armenian polls that were marred by serious fraud reported by OSCE observers. “Regrettably, Armenia’s elections have so far fallen short of OSCE commitments for democratic elections,” he told reporters in Yerevan. “The upcoming elections is a chance to turn this negative trend around.”
Similar hopes have repeatedly been voiced by the United States and the European Union. The Armenian authorities have assured them that they are committed to ensuring the freedom and fairness of the upcoming vote. They point, in particular, to the recently enacted amendments Armenia’s Electoral Code that are mostly based on Council of Europe recommendations.
According to Frlec, it is the “political will” of the Armenian government that will matter the most. “I believe that the recently amended election code of Armenia provides a sound framework for democratic elections,” he said. “But the real challenge for the authorities is the implementation, in good faith, of the election code so that this and future elections will be held in accordance with [Armenia’s] OSCE commitments. It is all about political will.”
(Photolur photo: Boris Frlec.)