Elections Observation Mission ICES
On January 21, 2013, Armenia launched the official presidential campaign.
Eight people are still in the race for the office of the President of Armenia: the current President Mr. Serzh Sargsyan, the former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition party “Freedom” Mr. Bagratyan, ex-Foreign Minister and Chairman of the opposition “Heritage” party Mr. Raffi Hovannisian, the famous Soviet dissident Mr. Paruyr Hayrikyan, former Foreign Minister of Nagorny Karabakh Mr. Arman Melikyan, political scientist Mr. Andreas Ghukasyan, Mr. Vartan Setrakian and the leader of the “National Accord” Mr. Aram Harutyunyan.
According to many experts, the current presidential elections in Armenia will be predictable and boring. However, they began very differently.
One of the Presidential candidates, Mr. Ghukasyan, decided to start a hunger strike demanding for the Central Election Commission to invalidate the registration of the current President Sargsyan as a Presidential candidate. The current President’s candidacy will also be supported by Mr. Harutyunyan. Two other presidential candidates, Mr. Hayrikyan and Mr. Melikyan are identifying their participation in the presidential race.
All these news leave no doubt that the election will be anything but boring, despite the fact that the actions of the presidential hopefuls fall within the political technologies widely used in the CIS. What’s more, all these statements were made after PACE observation Mission expressed concern over the course of the presidential campaign in Armenia a week ago.
The Mission’s remarks were mainly related to the low interest in elections amongst Armenian population, inaccuracies in the voter list and the limitation on voting abroad.
The Mission of the International Expert Center for Electoral Systems (ICES) was the first organization accredited to monitor the upcoming elections has already begun preliminary monitoring and finds that PACE’s pessimistic assessment is incorrect, premature, and somewhat biased. We believe that in the upcoming Presidential elections, CES and the ruling party are most interested in maintaining accurate voter lists. The leader of the ruling party is a clear favorite. This is why his staff is interested in conducting open and honest elections, the results of which would be widely accepted by the Armenian community.
As noted in ICES’ preliminary report from December 2012, the voter lists are posted on the Central Election Commission’s website and every citizen of Armenia can verify their registration in advance. The access to and and the overall tight monitoring of the voter registration lists can minimize inaccuracies and prevent direct fraud.
The fact that neither the first nor the second Armenian President is on the ballot does, in fact, dull the competitive edge of the electoral process, but is not, by any means, a violation. It is improper to state that the elections will not be competitive. The fact that there are three such candidates as Mr. Bagratyan, Mr. Hayrikyan and Mr. Hovannisian in the Presidential race is an indication that the upcoming elections will be quite competitive.
In regards to the article in the current Electoral Code of Armenia prohibiting Armenian Diaspora to vote in Armenian elections, the view of the mission is as follows. The right to vote cannot be considered separately from the other rights and obligations of Armenian citizens: physical presence in Armenia for at least six months, payment of taxes, and military service. Without all these, the mere participation in Parliamentary and Presidential elections will simply not be understood by the citizens of Armenia. All discussions and amendments to the electoral code should be made well in advance of the elections.
ICES once again calls upon all parties participating in the Presidential elections to conduct a fair and transparent election campaign, maximize the responsibility for ensuring the equal application of the law and to duly punish those who break the law.