The European Union pledged on Thursday to provide 7 million euros ($7.4 million) for the implementation of the Armenian government’s landmark agreement with the opposition aimed at preventing serious fraud in next year’s parliamentary elections.
The EU Delegation in Yerevan stressed importance of the proper conduct of the vote slated for April in a statement that announced the funding. “Ensuring free and fair future elections will be crucial for Armenian democracy and for the country's relations with the European Union,” it said.
The Armenian government and three major opposition parties reached the agreement in September. It resulted in the passage of key anti-fraud amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code.
The most significant of those amendments aims to preclude multiple voting by government supporters through the publication of the names of those voters that have actually cast ballots. The amended code also mandates live online broadcasts of voting and ballot counting in all 2,000 or so polling stations across the country.
Opposition representatives have said that Western donors are ready to provide about $10 million for the purchase of equipment required for the broadcasts and electronic verification of voters’ identity.
“EU financial support of up to €7 million will close the identified financial gap and will thus allow for the smooth implementation of the electoral reform agreement,” read the EU Delegation statement. “This includes support to election observation.”
“Together with the contributions of Germany and the United Kingdom, European support amounts to 90 percent of the overall financial assistance to the electoral process,” it added.
The U.S. government announced on Monday that it too will financially support anti-fraud measures agreed by the Armenian government and opposition. It did not specify the amount of U.S. funding.
Like Armenian opposition leaders, the U.S. Embassy in Armenia cautioned that the recently enacted amendments alone do not guarantee the freedom and fairness of the upcoming elections. “It is a matter of political will,” it said, referring to the authorities in Yerevan.
The EU Delegation agreed: “We perceive the presence of political will as a key prerequisite for a fair electoral process.”
The delegation said the authorities have pledged to “allow a fair and open competition.” “We expect the Central Election Commission, the law enforcement bodies and the judiciary to do their best to fulfil this promise,” it stressed.
Addressing a pre-election congress of his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Saturday, President Serzh Sarkisian said his administration is committed to holding a “spotless” ballot. Some opposition groups are highly skeptical about his assurances.