A pre-election delegation comprised of members
from Germany, Portugal and the United States,
visited Armenia at the end of November to assess
electoral conditions and the political environment
in which the 2003 Presidential and parliamentary
elections will take place.
Members of the delegation have participated in
more than 50 pre-election assessments worldwide
and international election observation delegations
on five continents.
While in Armenia the pre-election delegation
met with current and former governmental officials
of the country, international embassies, political
party executives, journalists and NGO's, totaling
24 meetings in five days.
The delegation also reviewed the Constitution
of the Republic of Armenia, the Electoral Code,
as well as assessments of the proposed and adopted
amendments to the Electoral Code issued by OSCEs
Office for Human Rights and Democratic Institutions
and the Council of Europe.
"Armenia continues to suffer from its troubled
electoral history, says a report prepared
by the delegation upon completion of its visit.
While improvements have been made in some
respects, critical areas remain to be addressed
if credible democratic elections are to be achieved.
The members of the delegation identified some
critical issues Armenia should address on its
way to a democratic society. The problem list
included the voter registry, which, the report
says creates real possibilities for both exclusion
of eligible voters and the opportunity for illegal
Some other problems concerned vote-buying and
intimidation of voters, election workers and nonpartisan
election monitors, military personnel voting,
insufficient training of election officials concerning
voting and vote tabulation procedures, election
observers and the media, inappropriate use of
state resources for electoral advantage, failure
to enforce the law concerning election violations.
In the face of such problems, extraordinary
efforts are required by the government and election
authorities to demonstrate that the 2003 elections
will be properly conducted, the report concludes.
Delegates also found that: The failure
to prosecute electoral crimes and the lack of
application of administrative sanctions has led
to a perception among the public that electoral
intimidation and electoral fraud can be perpetrated
During the Electoral Code amendments in July
2002 (the Electoral Code was first adopted in
1999), the Armenian legislators made significant
improvements in the Code.
These improvements included recognition of rights
of nonpartisan Armenian organizations to monitor
the election process, provision of party and candidate
proxies and nonpartisan observers with copies
of the protocols (tallysheets) following the vote
count at polling stations, elimination of intermediate
electoral commissions at the community level and
provision that no one could be added to supplemental
voter lists on election day without a court certificate.
The delegation underlined the efforts of the
Armenian government to foster democratic development
and suggested some areas of additional improvements.
The list of recommendations included ensuring
impartiality of election commissions, providing
comprehensive transparency of vote tabulations,
improving voter lists, ensuring political neutrality
of state authorities, ensuring a free and informed
military vote, ensuring media fairness, as well
as establishing accountability and ending impunity
for electoral violations.
The teams overall assessment determined
that next months Presidential election and
the Parliamentary election in May will take place
against a backdrop of widespread irregularities
and fraudulent practices in past elections.
None of the countrys prior polls
have met minimum international standards for democratic
This remains a crucial factor in Armenias
electoral context, even though the 1999 parliamentary
elections and the October 2002 local elections
improved incrementally over earlier polls.