A senior official said Friday that the Armenian government continues to oppose the idea of publicizing the names of voters participating in elections which its critics believe would make vote rigging much more difficult.
Armenian opposition groups have for years advocated such a measure, saying that it would practically preclude illegal multiple voting by government loyalists. About two dozen civil society groups backed the opposition demand in a February 10 joint appeal to the authorities
President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have for years opposed the idea, saying that it would breach the constitutionally guaranteed secrecy of ballots. Davit Harutiunian, the chief of the government staff, made clear that their position has not changed.
Harutiunian, who is also a senior HHK member, denied opposition claims that Britain has a very similar safeguard against electoral fraud. “In fact, an election proxy challenging election results there is allowed to take a look at those lists … but they can’t copy and publicize them,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Harutiunian added that the Armenian authorities are now considering an alternative mechanism that would involve electronic registration of voters going to the polls to cast ballots. “There could be different techniques: images, fingerprints and the like,” he said.
Avetis Avagian, a senior representative of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), dismissed such an arrangement. He said that the use of modern technology in polling stations would be meaningless without a post-election disclosure of voter lists.
The HAK, other opposition groups as well as non-partisan monitors say that multiple voting was widespread during the disputed December 6 referendum on Sarkisian’s constitutional changes. Several government supporters have already been fined by Armenian courts for voting in place of other citizens on that day.
A Yerevan court on Friday fined three more such individuals 500,000 drams ($1,000) each for the same illegal practice. Just like the other multiple voting trials, the court hearing on the case was held under a so-called “accelerated procedure” that did not require questioning of witnesses and close examination of the defendant’s motives. It thus remained unclear whether the three men acted on their own or followed a political order.
None of those men agreed to comment, leaving it to a friend of theirs, HHK proxy Davit Simonian, to talk to reporters. Simonian said they all “engaged in fraud for a cause” and he will therefore give money to pay the fines.
The multiple voting occurred in a Yerevan polling station where journalists and observers witnessed serious irregularities on December 6. Simonian reportedly attacked a reporter there and smashed his camera. He avoided prosecution.
The court also slapped the same fine on Lusine Mnatsakanian, a member of the local election commission convicted of helping the three men cast ballots on behalf of other voters. She gave no clear reason for her actions.