The intention of the Armenian authorities to organise an election fully in line with international standards has been welcomed by a PACE delegation visiting the country to assess the pre-electoral climate ahead of the 18 February presidential election.
However, a crucial matter of concern for the delegation is the continuing substantial inaccuracies in the voter list, since an accurate list is a prerequisite for any proper election. There is still confusion about the right to vote for Armenians living abroad. The delegation was also disappointed to note that previous recommendations on urgently dealing with these issues have not been implemented.
The delegation also noted that, one month before the vote, the general public is lacking both interest and confidence in the electoral process. This is a matter of great concern, in particular given that major political parties, which were strongly expected to present presidential candidates, chose not to do so because of their lack of trust in the conduct of the election. This decision has narrowed the voters’ choice, leading to a situation even more regrettable as the elections to come are already overshadowed by apathy and a lack of faith. The delegation emphasised that citizens’ trust must be restored as elections are essential for democratic development.
It also strongly hopes that issues already criticised in PACE’s report on the parliamentary elections of 6 May 2012, in particular cases of intimidation of voters and the extensive use of administrative resources, have been dealt with in a way that ensures such practices will not be repeated. It also hopes that a level playing field will be granted to all candidates, inter alia, through balanced media coverage.
The delegation welcomes increased media freedom and hopes that registered candidates will engage in electoral campaigns based on concrete political programs and that the public discussion will focus more on substance, so that the electorate can make an informed choice.
The delegation is aware of the legal improvements brought by the new Electoral Code adopted in 2011. It however insists that a fair and proper implementation of the Code is as important as the Code itself.
The PACE pre-electoral delegation* was in Yerevan at the invitation of the President of the National Assembly of Armenia. It met with presidential candidates, including the incumbent President, leaders of factions in the Parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the President of the National Assembly, the Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, the Head of the National Police, the General Prosecutor, NGO and media representatives, the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission and diplomats in Yerevan.
A full 22-member delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly will arrive in Yerevan in mid-February to observe the vote. The PACE delegation will present its findings and recommendations to the Assembly during its April session in Strasbourg.
* Karen Woldseth (Norway, EDG), head of the delegation, Luca Volontè (Italy, EPP/CD), Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), Mailis Reps (Estonia, ALDE).