The European Union expects the Armenian authorities to hold free and fair parliamentary elections on April 2, having provided them with over $7 million in assistance for that purpose, a senior EU diplomat said on Friday.
“We are really looking forward to good elections in Armenia,” said Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan.
“The EU has done a lot to help the government, the Central Election Commission and the civil society seek higher standards. And we have done that in an unprecedented way,” he told reporters.
Switalski pointed to 7 million euros ($7.4 million) in EU funding that was allocated late last year in support of the Armenian government’s landmark agreement with the opposition aimed at preventing serious fraud in the 2017 elections.
Most of that money, 4 million euros, is to be spent on the purchase of special electronic devices that will be used for verifying voters’ identity and thereby preventing multiple voting.Another 2 million euros will go to pay for web cameras to be installed in the vast majority of Armenia’s 2,000 or so polling stations. Voting and ballot counting there will be broadcast live online on election day.
Switalski stressed that no other EU neighbor has ever received so much funding and “political support” for the conduct of democratic elections. “So Armenia, in a way, is in a privileged position,” said the envoy.
Announcing this aid in a December statement, the EU Delegation cautioned that these anti-fraud measures alone will not guarantee a clean vote. It said the authorities in Yerevan should also have the “political will” to ensure a “fair electoral process.”
Switalski expressed hope earlier in 2016 that the parliamentary elections will be “an important launching pad for the democratic future of Armenia.”
With Armenia due to switch to the parliamentary system of government in 2018, the polls will determine who will govern the country after President Serzh Sarkisian serves out his final term. Sarkisian and his Republican Party (HHK) say that they are committed to ensuring that the polls are free and fair. Their political opponents are skeptical about these pledges.