A senior diplomat reportedly reaffirmed on Wednesday the European Union’s largely positive assessment of the conduct of Armenia’s recent parliamentary elections won by President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK).
Herbert Salber, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, discussed with Sarkisian the April 2 elections and Armenia’s relations with the EU during his latest visit to Yerevan.
The presidential press service said Salber congratulated Sarkisian on “the successful conduct” of the vote and called it a “serious step forward in terms of strengthening stability and democracy in the country.” It said the envoy also expressed hope that the Armenian authorities will address “certain problems” observed during the parliamentary race.
On April 4, a spokesperson for Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, echoed European observers’ preliminary conclusion that the elections were marred by “credible information about vote-buying” and voter intimidation, even though “fundamental freedoms were generally respected.” “The election result nevertheless reflects the overall will of the Armenian people,” she said in a statement.
The statement made clear the EU will work closely with Armenia’s “democratically elected new parliament and government” in order to “strengthen our political dialogue and continue our support to economic and social reform.” It cited the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which was initialed in Yerevan two weeks before the polls.
Most Armenian opposition groups say the election outcome was primarily decided by large-scale vote buying by the ruling HHK. Some of them, notably the Congress-HZhK alliance, have also alleged more serious irregularities such as multiple voting. The Congress-HZhK alliance has demanded that Armenia’s Constitutional Court annul the official vote results. The court opened hearings on the appeal on Tuesday.
Meeting with Salber, Sarkisian thanked the EU for providing Armenia with over $7 million in funding for the purchase of voter authentication devices and web cameras that were installed in polling stations across the country. He said they helped the authorities to ensure that the elections meet “international standards.”
Mogherini’s April 4 statement insisted that the electronic equipment prevented many irregularities. “Despite some minor technical problems, fewer irregularities concerning ballot box stuffing, double voting, counting and tabulation of results were recorded by observers,” it said.