Noyan Tapan
Feb 1, 2008

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 1, NOYAN TAPAN. The pre-electoral mission of
the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was in
Yerevan on January 29-31 with the aim of evaluating the political
atmosphere in Armenia and the preparatory work for the presidential
elections. According to a press release issued at the end of the visit,
the main goal of the mission was to assess the use of pre-electoral
legislation, as the continuous progress in organizing the upcoming
presidential elections is pivotal for ensuring society's confidence
in the electoral process in the country.

The PACE delegation pointed out with satisfaction the definite
political will of the authorities to correct previous shortcomings
and to organize fully democratic elections - in accordance with
obligations to the Council of Europe. In this respect the delegation
welcomed the improvement of electoral legislation, which was made,
taking into account the recommendations of the PACE. At the same
time the delegation stated that organizing the upcoming elections
in line with democratic norms depends on efficient implementation of
electoral legislation.

Underlining that legitimacy of truly democratic elections depends
on the high level of society's trust in the electoral process, the
delegation expressed its concern at the absence of confidence in
electoral process, which was expressed at a number of meetings. For
this reason the delegation proposed that the authorities use all
means for ensuring public confidence in election process, especially
in secrecy of the vote and in transparency of counting process.

According to the press release, although the Electoral Code ensures
balanced representation of electoral commissions, no such balance
was observed in three-member guiding groups of the district electoral
commissions. The delegation expressed a hope that this unbalance will
not be noticed in local electoral commissions.

Democratic elections require that equal opportunities be ensured
for all candidates in the process of official election campaign,
and not only during it. The delegation expressed its regret at the
unbalanced coverage by the majority of the mass media, including
Public Television, before the official campaign, as was registered by
several organizations conducting monitoring, including the OSCE/ODIHR
Election Observation Mission.

The delegation's attention was called to a number of complaints that
the prime minister - candidate for the RA presidency will have an
unfair advantage of election campaign - as a result of the decision on
continuation of his tenure during the election campaign. In the opinion
of the delegation, thus the government assumes an extra obligation:
not to create an impression that administrative resources are used for
or against a candidate. The delegation welcomed the fact that so far
the election campaign has proceeded in an open and free atmosphere,
although it took notice of complaints of some candidates about
difficulties related to obtaining areas for election headquarters in
several marzes.

Expressing gratitude to the Armenian authorities for cooperation and
support during the visit, the PACE delegation expressed confidence
that the authorities will respond to concerns expressed by the
delegation and will continue their efforts aimed at holding democratic
presidential elections.