Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will reaffirm their mixed assessment of Armenia’s parliamentary elections in a final report that will be released within two months, a senior OSCE official said on Wednesday.
The OSCE’s Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) deployed 14 election experts and 28 long-term observers in Armenia ahead of the April 2 elections. They were joined on election day by 250 short-term observers from various OSCE member states as well as monitors sent by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.
In a joint preliminary report issued on April 3, the European observers said the Armenian authorities largely respected “fundamental freedoms” during the “well-administered” vote. But they also reported “credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.”
“This contributed to an overall lack of public confidence and trust in the elections,” said the report. It assessed negatively the voting process in 12 percent of polling stations visited by the observers due to problems such as overcrowding and violation of the secrecy of the ballot.
The OSCE-led mission did not report significant instances of multiple voting, one of the most serious forms of fraud that marred previous Armenian elections. The Armenian authorities installed electronic voter authentication devices in all polling stations. Also, voting and ballot counting in the vast majority of those stations was broadcast live online.
“Some voting procedures went fairly well but more needs to be done,” said Jan Petersen, who led the team of OSCE/ODIHR monitors.
Petersen said that there will be no “fundamental change” of this evaluation in the final OSCE report. “The final report will be a confirmation of our preliminary report,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Norwegian diplomat also stressed that the mission will not be seeking to determine the legitimacy of the polls. “Political consequences of the election will not be part of our final report,” he said.
The European Union and the United States were quick to endorse the preliminary findings of the European observers. They both cautiously praised the Armenian authorities’ conduct of the polls. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said through a spokesperson on April 4 that the official vote results, which gave victory to the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), “reflect the overall will of the Armenian people.”
Virtually all Armenian opposition groups claim that the election outcome was decided by large-scale vote buying. Some of them have also alleged other irregularities, demanding that the official results be annulled.