The head of the European Union Delegation in Armenia, Piotr Switalski, on Friday urged Armenians not to sell their votes in forthcoming parliamentary elections.
“Corruption has been one of the sad sides of the electoral process in Armenia,” Switalski told an anti-corruption forum in Yerevan. “I very much hope that in the run-up to the elections we will jointly inform Armenians that engaging in electoral corruption, taking vote bribes, swapping their votes and future for a small but sometimes very attractive sum is not the right way to build the country’s future.”
“Let us inform people that their dignity and future are not worth 10,000 or even 20,000 drams ($42) that they are offered in exchange for their votes,” he said.
Vote buying has reportedly been widespread in various Armenian elections held since the early 2000s. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) and other government-linked parties have long been accused by the opposition, election monitors and media of handing out vote bribes. They have denied the allegations.
Some opposition leaders claim that the HHK will again resort to the illegal practice in the parliamentary elections due in April 2017. The Armenian government has pledged to do its best to ensure that the vote meets democratic standards.
Last week the EU pledged to provide 7 million euros ($7.4 million) in support of anti-fraud measures that have been agreed by the government and the parliamentary opposition. Announcing that funding, the EU Delegation said: “Ensuring free and fair future elections will be crucial for Armenian democracy and for the country's relations with the European Union.”
In his speech, Switalski also stressed the importance of combatting broader government corruption in Armenia. He said the authorities in Yerevan have so far not done enough to tackle the problem.
“We hope that 2016 has been a year of change and that in 2017 we will not only hear new promises but also see new facts, new material proofs,” added the diplomat.