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 January 17, 2003 
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Voting Climate: Report say "extraordinary efforts required" to assure clean elections


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 OSCE’s 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 voting.

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 with impunity.”

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 team’s overall assessment determined that next month’s 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 country’s prior polls have met minimum international standards for democratic elections.

“This remains a crucial factor in Armenia’s electoral context, even though the 1999 parliamentary elections and the October 2002 local elections improved incrementally over earlier polls.”


 

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