International observers’ report on Armenia elections seen as vague

Assessing Vote 2012 Assessment

Director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) Manvel Sargsyan describes the report on the May 6 parliamentary elections released by international observers on Monday as “vague”.

“They [the international observation mission heads] said that their goal was not to give evaluations, but rather to see how elections have been conducted in Armenia in accordance with the country’s legislation,” Sargsyan told ArmeniaNow.

According to the political analyst, it is an important circumstance that during the presentation of the report one of the observers compared the May 6 parliamentary elections in Armenia not to the previous elections, but to the elections that were held in the Soviet Union. (At a press conference on Monday the observers tried in every possible way to avoid making comparisons with the previous, most recent elections. Only Francois-Xavier de Donnea, the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation, said that the elections were a big step forward in comparison with the elections taking place in the Soviet Union).

The joint preliminary report of the international observers contained a mixed assessment of the elections. On the one hand, they praise the pre-election campaign, but on the other hand stressed a “significant number” of irregularities on Election Day proper.

In their preliminary findings the observers noted a “vibrant and largely peaceful campaign, with overall balanced media coverage.” “But pressure on voters and a deficient complaints process created an unequal playing field,” they added.

President Serzh Sargsyan, whose ruling Republican Party of Armenia swept the May 6 vote consolidating its grip on power in the country, had repeatedly pledged a clean vote before and while conducting his election campaign. In fact, Sargsyan and other senior representatives of the political leadership in Yerevan had promised to hold the freest, fairest and most transparent elections in the history of independent Armenia. The nation’s international partners, such as the European Union, the United States and others, had also stressed on many occasions the importance of Armenia holding free and fair elections in terms of its further democratization and integration within European structures.

To the question as to what significance for the Armenian leadership the observer mission report has in this contest, given that Sargsyan is going to seek reelection as president in 2013, ACNIS head Sargsyan (no relation to the Armenian president) said: “Everything depends on the [minority] political parties – if they pick their mandates and enter the parliament, then Serzh Sargsyan will have no problem with international bodies.”

Stepan Safaryan, who appears to have lost his seat in parliament as an opposition Heritage lawmaker, said he did not think the report helped Armenia in terms of encouraging further democracy.

According to him, it failed to properly address the concerns about large-scale vote buying schemes and use of administrative resources during the elections in Armenia. “I don’t know whether it is observers laughing at us, or we should be laughing at the observers,” Safaryan said.

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