On September 23, 2018, Yerevan City Council elections’ voting day, Independent Observer Public Alliance conducted a short-term observation mission in 95 Yerevan polling stations and in all 10 district electoral commissions. Simultaneously 17 mobile observer groups worked to monitor the situation outside the polling stations, as well as to prevent and resolve the problems occurring in observed polling stations. About 230 observers were involved in the mission.
Based on the information obtained in polling stations, the following situation was recorded.
In polling stations during the voting
In 24% of the observed polling stations, cases of voters marking their ballots or placing them into an envelope away from the voting booth were recorded. Whereas, in 2017, such cases were recorded in 77% of the observed polling stations.
In 10% of the monitored polling stations, cases of several people simultaneously entering the voting booth were recorded. In 2017, such cases were recorded in 52% of the observed polling stations.
Instances of voters informing others of how they voted or simply saying it aloud were recorded in 32% of the observed polling stations. Most of them were Velvet Revolution or My Step Alliance slogans, such as “Take a step”, “Reject Serzh”, “Go, Nikol, go”, etc., others were in favor of the Prosperous Armenia Party and one was in favor of the Rule of Law Party. In the previous year, such cases were recorded in 37% of polling stations.
Instances of individuals consulting the voter list and misusing its information were recorded in 6 polling stations; in polling station 6/52, four such cases were recorded. In one of the polling stations, the My Step Alliance proxy studied the lists; so did commission members representing the Tsarukyan Faction in three other polling stations. In another case, a voter consulted the voter list in order to find his family members. In 2017, such cases were recorded in 35% of the polling stations.
Unauthorized people were present in 29% of the observed polling stations. In 8 of these there were people unidentified to the observer, in 8 polling stations there were additional proxies and in 7, police officers, who were not voters and were not invited to the polling station by the head of the commission, and 3 city council candidates. In 2017, presence of unauthorized people was recorded in 28% of the observed polling stations. Further examination revealed that observers not accredited by the Republic of Armenia (RA) Central Electoral Commission had been present in voting rooms. Consequently, in 2017, unauthorized people were noticed in 37% of the observed polling stations.
Accredited persons not wearing their badges visibly were noticed in 23% of the observed polling stations. This applied to all kinds of participants expected to wear them. In 2017, such cases were recorded in 41% of the observed polling stations.
Violations of observer rights were recorded in 12% of the observed polling stations, which in absolute numbers (11) is equal to the rate of 2017. However, there was an obvious decrease in the gravity of violations. Observers were threatened in two polling stations: in one of them by a former Republican Party supporter who introduced himself as a Prosperous Armenia Party proxy, and in the other by the commission head of the polling station 3/19 who bullied the observer for his looks to the extent that he had to leave the premises. On 2017 Parliamentary Election day observers were threatened in 5 polling stations and in 2 of them they were subjected to violence.
In general, arguments were recorded in 24% of the observed polling stations and the police by in large did not intervene. In the previous year, cases of arguments were recorded in 37% of the observed polling stations. Arguments outside polling stations were recorded in 5% of the observed polling stations as compared with 22% in 2017.
Problems with electronic registration equipment were recorded in almost all polling stations, as was the case in 2017.
Around polling stations during the voting
Activities aimed at influencing voter behavior for the following parties/alliances: Prosperous Armenia Party, Light Alliance, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, My Step Alliance and Rule of Law Party, took place around or at the entrance of 6% of the observed polling stations. In the previous year, such cases were recorded in 22% of the observed polling stations and exclusively in favor of the Republican Party of Armenia.
15 cases of transporting people to the polling stations by public vans or other vehicles were noticed in 10% of the observed polling stations. In the previous year, numerous similar cases were recorded in 33% of the observed polling stations.
Crowds around polling stations were recorded at 13% of the observed polling stations. In the previous year, such cases were recorded in 40% of the observed polling stations.
Summarizing voting results
In two of the observed polling stations, an envelope contained two ballot papers.
On the Voting day, no cases of violence against journalists, observers and other participants of the electoral process in the observed polling stations were recorded.
Summarizing the preliminary results of the observation, the Independent Observer Alliance has recorded the following:
This year, the Independent Observer Alliance conducted media monitoring of the pre-election campaign and found out that TV channels and online media covered the process more actively than usual. On both platforms, there have been no obvious cases of biased coverage of the campaign. However, we cannot say that anti-propaganda has not been carried out on these platforms, but they have been mainly done through statements that did not mention names, but were obviously directed to this or that group. The use of this method of anti-propaganda was most applicable to Facebook.
As a result of monitoring, the Independent Observer Public Alliance has concluded that September 23, 2018 Yerevan City Council elections were held in compliance with the most essential principles of democratic elections.
Independent Observer Public Alliance conducts observation with the following member and partner organizations:
Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office
Union of Informed Citizens
Advanced Public Research Group
Armrusinfo media of Union of Informed Citizens
Epress media of Independent Journalists Network