non-governmental agency (NGO) "It's Your
Choice" released its report Monday from information
gathered by 1,500 Presidential Election polling
While IYC concludes the seven page summary by
expressing hope that future elections will be
more fairly conducted, the report is a scorching
indictment of the current voting process.
"My observers and I felt ourselves humiliated
when in Echmiadzin 25 people were surrounding
a voting box and stuffing it and we could do nothing,"
says the NGO's deputy head, Khachik Voskanyan.
"Three cars were waiting outside keeping
watch. Nobody tried to prevent it. People were
afraid and they had just hung their heads. I couldn't
come to myself for two days. We refused to observe
second round of elections in Armavir Region."
Statements such as Voskanyan's are the anecdotal
information supporting IYC's report which divides
the elections into 13 categories, all with alleged
Members of the organization had actively participated
in the formation of election laws and thanks to
their lobbying the concept of local observers
was included into the National Assembly deputies'
law of 1999. The idea also was included into electoral
IYC has branch offices in all regions and in
Yerevan communities and with some 4,000 observers
is monitoring elections at every level. Volunteers
are mainly women teachers, who are not members
of any party. Many of them became volunteers in
The organization also organizes meetings between
voters and heads of the communities in each region
twice a month.
This year, 1,500 volunteer IYC observers were
on hand in about 900 polling stations. Unlike
international observers, who had been visiting
different polling stations, observers of It's
Your Choice were observing elections only in his
or her polling station.
The report says voting violations occurred on
many levels including ballot stuffing, names of
the deceased or those no longer living in Armenia
included as registered voters, names of children
as young as six on voting lists and even accusations
that some electoral commissioners changed the
tabulation of votes to favor the eventual winner,
President Robert Kocharyan.
(State media has reported violations on the part
of the Opposition, however, the IYC report does
not contain any such accusations relating to supporters
of Stepan Demirchyan.)
"In one polling station Demirchyan's proxy
had been so cruelly beaten that one eye was swollen
shut. His eye was filled with blood and nobody,
no policeman, did anything. Why? Because he tried
to prevent stuffing," said an IYC observer
coordinator who was afraid to tell journalists
"We usually tried to send adult women observers
to the most dangerous polling stations hoping
that they wouldn't be beaten," the coordinator
said. "One of those women, after she saw
how the same person had voted six times, couldn't
bear such a behavior and interfered. But that
person told her that if she wanted to reach her
home that she had better not talk too much. Another
one, who interfered to prevent violation, was
asked how much she wanted to be paid for staying
silent. After the first round many observers refused
to take part in the second round."
The IYC report says the organization didn't notice
any improvement in voting practices between the
February 19 first round and the March 5 runoff.
In fact Voskanyan said the runoff had more violations
than the preliminary.
Though it is not the first election to be monitored
by the organization, Voskanyan says it is the
first time observers are too frightened to tell
"We haven't seen elections like this,"
he said. "We saw 'carousel' voting. We saw
how people were secretly stuffing, but we have
never seen how people without regard were openly
stuffing in the presence of voters, observers
and proxies. For me it's not important at all
who will win. The important thing is that electoral
institutions have died in Armenia. And I had great