The Armenian authorities must finally agree to publicize the names of voters participating in elections in order to eliminate a key source of electoral fraud in the country, about two dozen civil society groups said on Wednesday.
In a joint written appeal to the authorities, they said such a measure would seriously complicate multiple voting by government loyalists.
“Nobody can deny that multiple voting is widespread in Armenia,” said Daniel Ioannisian of the Union of Informed Citizens, one of the signatories of the statement.
“There have even been court verdicts on that. This practice must be ended,” Ioannisian said, referring to the fact that several government backers have been fined by courts for casting ballots in place of other citizens during Armenia’s December 6 constitutional referendum.
The proposed anti-fraud measure has for years been advocated by Armenian opposition groups. They claim that the practice, clearly facilitated by the absence from the country of many eligible voters, was widespread during the disputed referendum and Armenia’s last presidential and parliamentary elections.
President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have opposed the idea, saying that it would breach the constitutionally guaranteed secrecy of ballots. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission came up with a similar argument when it spoke out against the publication of voter lists several years ago.
Incidentally, a copy of the joint statement by the civic groups was also sent to the Venice Commission. Ioannisian said the signatories hope that the commission will change its position on the issue.
Heriknaz Tigranian, a legal counsel with Transparency International’s Armenian branch, which also signed the statement, dismissed HHK claims that there were only isolated cases of multiple voting during the referendum. “I can refute their claims with my own example,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “On referendum day someone else voted on my behalf in our precinct.”
Tigranian claimed that the authorities have objected to the proposed safeguard because they heavily rely on multiple voting. “They secure desired results through voting in place of absent citizens,” she said.