Further democratic consolidation is needed in Armenia also outside the polling stations, a 10-member electoral assessment team representing a Council of Europe body said after concluding its mission in observing the May 14 elections to Yerevan’s Council of Elders.
Liisa Ansala, the head of the team from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe that also included two representatives from the EU Committee of the Regions, said that on Election Day they visited some 100 polling stations in different administrative districts of Yerevan where they could also assess the implementation of both the new legal framework and the new electronic system to identify voters and prevent fraud that was used in Armenia for the second time after the April 2 parliamentary elections.
According to a statement issued by the team from Strasbourg, the Voter Authentication Devices (VADs) were functioning smoothly throughout the whole voting procedure.
The team also noted the installation of web cameras in all polling stations in order to prevent electoral fraud as well as the publication of signed voters’ lists after the elections “since the accuracy of the voters’ lists and voter impersonation were among the long-standing challenges of the electoral management in Armenia.”
In addition to the new technologies, the Congress observers said they were able to assess the quality of the election administration at the level of precinct election commissions whose members, including the IT specialists in charge of processing the VADs, received training by the Central Election Commission and which was overall positively evaluated.
“In general, the Election Day was calm and orderly in Yerevan, with the exception of some incidents which were reported to the Congress’ members and include also allegations of vote-buying and double-voting,” the statement said.
The Congress’s Vice-President Liisa Ansala (Finland, ILDG) said the amended Electoral Code and the new technical measures have certainly improved the situation inside the polling stations. “However, there is further democratic consolidation needed also outside,” she added.
“As it was the case during the April 2 parliamentary elections, also during the Yerevan elections our delegation heard allegations of vote-buying and bribes as a systemic problem in Armenia. In addition, there is the issue of pressure on public service employees and misuse of administrative resources. In the majority of places visited by our observers on Sunday there were groups of people loitering around outside the polling stations creating an overall atmosphere of controlled voting. This is also relevant with regard to the busses bringing groups of voters to polling stations which we have observed. All these issues need to be taken seriously by the authorities in order to increase the trust in elections and in the administration in general,” Ansala said.
“The fact that on Sunday only some 40 percent of the voters participated in the Yerevan elections is an alarming sign and shows the high level of political apathy and mistrust in the political system. The improved electoral framework and the new technologies to prevent fraud on E-Day are very welcome by the Congress and have increased transparency. Nonetheless, much more needs to be done to address the root cause of apathy and frustration about politics in Armenia,” she concluded.
A report on the observation mission in the Yerevan elections is due to be presented on June 27.