ArmeniaNow.com - Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 February 21, 2003 




Decision 2003: Observers say elections fall short of international standards


Foreign observers invited to Armenia to monitor Wednesday's Presidential elections declared yesterday that the vote was "generally calm and well administrated but the counting process was flawed and the long-term election process fell short of international standards in several key respects."

In the preliminary conclusion declared to journalists gathered in the conference hall of the Hotel Armenia the observers announced that "serious irregularities did not enable us to make an overall positive assessment."

The joint statement represented reports of the 200-strong international election observation mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

The observers noted that the voting process was generally well-conducted, though there were cases of ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of candidate proxies. There was an enthusiastic countrywide campaign with active public participation, the observers said.

But their report noted that serious irregularities took place during the count in a number of polling stations visited by the international observers.

"While we were pleased to see an active and vigorous campaign, we are concerned about serious shortcomings that were evident during the run up to the elections," said Peter Eicher, the head of the OSCE long-term observer mission.

The head of the PACE delegation Lord Russell-Johnston said that he went to 11 polling stations and his impression was generally favorable, because he saw friendly people and a good-natured atmosphere.

"But those who attended counts were more critical. The problems appearing during counting made it difficult to give positive estimation," says Russell-Johnston.

The February 19 election was the forth presidential elections since Armenia declared independence in 1991 and the first since Armenia became a member of the Council of Europe.

In the preliminary conclusion the observers noted that the previous presidential elections were characterized by serious flaws and generally did not meet international standards.

As such this election provided an important test of the progress of democratic practice in Armenia.

Asked if these elections showed improvements over the 1998 campaign, Eicher said the observers were in Armenia to compare elections to international standards not to the previous elections.

Eicher and Johnston were asked if Wednesday's election outcome was legitimate, given observers' findings. Eicher answered that the observer mission was only aimed at examining the process, while Russell-Johnston deferred from answering.

In a number of positive elements which were evident in the election process the observers mentioned the participation of nine candidates who provided voters with a genuine choice, the vigorous country-wide campaign, a recently amended election law providing a basis for democratic elections and the voting, counting and tabulation processes were generally transparent.

As significant shortcomings in regards to international standards the observers report said that pre-election campaigning:

  • Was marred by intimidation and by incidents of disruption of campaign events, including a serious incidence of violence;

  • The Public TV failed to comply with the legal obligation to provide balanced and unbiased reporting on candidates, violating of principals of equal access for all candidates;

  • There was evidence of pre-election manipulations, such as schemes to impersonate voters and use of inducements to secure votes;

  • Public resources were heavily used in support of the incumbent, representing a pattern of unequal treatment of candidates.

Another monitoring group, the mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) made a statement at a press-conference on Thursday announcing that the elections were free, fair, transparent and democratic.

Yuri Yarov, the Executive Secretary of the CIS announced elections were held in conformity with the Electoral Legislation.

According to a statement of the CIS mission all the necessary measures on holding the Presidential election in conformity with international standards were taken in Armenia. The CIS report also stated that the statement of six oppositional candidates urging the international observers to recognize elections illegitimate is not based on any specific arguments.


  Inside
 

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  Photos of the week
  Photo of the week: Talk Time
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Photo of the week: Talk Time
Click on the photo above to enlarge
 
 
 
 

Hope and Assurance

It has been a season of many emotions, Decision 2003. Doves of peace were offered and officers to enforce that peace were stationed around the Central Elections Commission.

 

 





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