12:44 pm | Today | Politics

The parliamentary elections that took place in the Republic of Armenia
on May 6, 2012 unfortunately do not assist the process of genuine
democratization of the country and do reflect the lack of political
will of the authorities to reform elections institutionally.

Confidence of the Armenian public in the electoral process
has gradually diminished starting from 1995. All elections were
marred by widespread harassment, threats, and vote buying, and in
2008, the elections were followed by tragic events resulting in
casualties. The need to conduct proper elections and to restore
public trust in the electoral processes has become a core issue
in the relationship of Armenia vis-a-vis other states and various
international organizations; it has been, in particular, reflected
in resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
and the Association Agreement talks of Armenia with the European Union.

Despite these factors and the repeated public promises of the Armenian
authorities to hold "exemplary" elections, the Armenian public could
not witness democratic elections in May 2012, either, and both our
and the international community's expectations were not met.

Besides certain positive improvements relative to the previous general
election (such as the mass media securing a "level playing field"
for the political forces during the campaign, the regulation of the
distribution of printed campaign materials, the clear assignment of
polling stations for voters on the voting day, and others), major
steps have not been implemented to secure fair elections reflecting
the free will of the voters. Vote buying, abuse of administrative
resources, political imposition and harassment of employees by the
public sector and private employers, and the use of numerous other
illegal "techniques" have affected the voting process and the election
result to an unprecedented scale. The law-enforcement agencies have,
as a rule, failed to act in prevention of irregularities and holding
the guilty ones responsible. Numerous cases of these practices were
reported by civil society organizations and individual voters.

Disappearing ink in the passport stamps that were introduced to
preclude the fraud further exacerbated concerns over inflated voter

The validity of the electoral process was strongly affected by
widespread poverty - unemployment, lack of protection for individual
citizens, and impunity for others have deprived scores of citizens of
the possibility to make a free, informed, and conscious choice. The
formation of this moral and psychological atmosphere was largely
due to the fact that the Armenian authorities have so far failed to
exert sufficient efforts to identify and punish those in charge of
organizing and carrying out the 1 March 2008 bloodshed, as well as
those responsible for the fraud in the 2008 and following elections.

On the eve of the 2012 May election, the National Assembly adopted
a contentious Law on the Legal Regime of the State of Emergency,
which allows the interference of the armed forces in the domestic
political process and was, as such, perceived by many as a threat.

As civil society representatives engaged in the promotion of human
rights and democracy, we are profoundly concerned over perpetual
sophistication and "improvement" of election fraud mechanisms, as
well as the impunity of those implementing the fraud. We believe that
both local and international organizations should draw appropriate
conclusions from yet another failure of Armenia to honor her
international commitments of implementing democratic reforms.

We find that the list of voters that participated in the 6 May 2012
elections must be published in order for democratic elections to
become institutionalized in Armenia. It is the primary step that
can demonstrate the will of the Armenian authorities to reconstruct
the real outcome of the election and to dispel the public skepticism
regarding the results of the vote.

Armenian Helsinki Committee Protection of Rights Without Borders NGO
Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center Journalists' Club
"Asparez" NGO Helsinki Citizens' Assembly - Vanadzor Office Open
Society Foundations - Armenia Menk Plus NGO Arena of Education NGO
Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression Collaboration for Democracy
Center Journalists for the Future

From: Baghdasarian