The Central Election Commission (CEC) on Tuesday publicly tested new ink for special passport stamps that are supposed to prevent multiple fraudulent voting in next week’s Armenian presidential election.
Under the Armenian Electoral Code amended in 2011, election officials must put ink stamps on voters’ passports at all polling stations. Those are supposed to remain visible for at least 12 hours.
However, the stamps routinely faded or disappeared altogether within minutes during voting in the May 2012 parliamentary elections, sparking opposition allegations of foul play. Opposition leaders claimed that this was done deliberately to enable Armenians that support or were bribed by the ruling Republican Party (HHK) to vote in two or more polling stations.
The CEC, which is dominated by government loyalists, denied those allegations at the time. It blamed the problem on the allegedly poor quality of ink and its incorrect use by lower-level election officials.
The CEC announced on Monday that the British manufacturer of the ink has modified its composition to make sure that it is more durable. CEC members demonstratively put dozens of stamps on invalid passports after stirring ink containers for seven minutes in accordance with CEC guidelines issued to lower-level electoral commissions. The CEC chairman, Tigran Mukuchian, said members of those commissions are already learning how to use the ink as part of nationwide training courses that began on January 28.
“We have tried to make the process as transparent as possible this time around,” Mukuchian, told journalists. He said they can visit the CEC on Wednesday and see that the stamps are not gone.
The CEC already publicly tested the vote stamps ahead of the May elections. The ink did not fade or disappear at the time.
The CEC recommended the abolition of the stamp requirement in a report submitted to the Armenian parliament in August. It claimed that the stamps can easily disappear due to natural chemical reactions and that it is impossible to find a type of ink that would stay intact “in all situations and circumstances.” Opposition deputies strongly criticized the recommendation.
Opposition groups claim that multiple voting in favor of pro-government candidates has become a key form of electoral fraud in Armenia. The authorities flatly deny this.