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Preliminary conclusions of ‘‘Independent Observer’’ public alliance on the 2018 snap elections to the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia

December 10, 2018

Electoral Process | News | Civilian Oversight and Monitoring

Background

 

After  observing 2017 National Assembly Elections, Independent Observer public alliance recorded that the Electoral Code adopted in 2016 gave no answers to the issues raised earlier, which were organized and mass abuse of administrative resources and the inefficiency of combating it, unequal opportunities for candidates, inefficiency of fight against obstructing to the free expression of voters’ will, restrictions on public control over elections, lack of effective mechanisms and opportunities for appealing election violations and voting results.

 

Basing the proportional electoral system on the opportunity of nominating  via district electoral lists, the Electoral Code further enhanced the potential of using administrative resources and different leverages, thus submitting ideological and political competition to the authority and resources of individual candidates.  

 

The revolution that took place in 2018 created an opportunity to thoroughly review the electoral legislation and to provide systemic solutions to the aforementioned problems by establishing a fully proportional electoral system and establishing fair starting opportunities (threshold decrease, deposit decrease, etc.).

 

Despite the shortcomings of the preparation of the draft amendments to the Electoral Code, the adoption of the draft could be a basis for organizing elections of a fully different quality. However, the draft amendments were not adopted and the National Assembly snap elections of December 9 were organized and held in accordance with the current Electoral Code.

 

Observation Mission

 

Since November 26, 2018, about 90 observers of Independent Observer public alliance have been conducting long-term observation of the preparation and conduct of the National Assembly snap elections campaign and voting on the whole territory of Armenia with the support of the European Union. 10 observers conducted monitoring of mass media. On December 9, about 800 observers conducted observation of the voting process in all 38 district electoral commissions and 300 precincts (15% of precincts) of the republic.

 

Long-term observation is ongoing and will be summarized after the end of the voting, but preliminary observations already make the improvement of the organization and conduct of the National Assembly snap elections apparent. This is essentially based on the political will to hold free and transparent elections.

 

Preliminary comparison between the conclusions of the National Assembly 2017 and 2018 elections

 

Campaign

 

During the observation of the phase of election preparation and campaign, Independent Observer public alliance recorded that

 

1․ During the campaign period of 2018, the observers recorded no case of violence and pressure during pre-election campaign. Whereas pre-election campaign of 2017 was accompanied by violence and pressure, including, use of firearms. Instead observers reported on 18 cases of disseminating hate speech, with regard to which competing parties and civil society organizations made several statements.

2. There were 62 cases of possible use of administrative resource recorded, which were not centrally organized and massive in nature. It was obvious that the cases of administrative resource abuse, were decentralized and in contrast to the previous elections, it was mainly used by candidates from the same party nominated in the same district and competing against each other. In this regard, it is of concern that unlike the previous elections, when the competition was mainly between different powers, participants of electoral process preferred to keep silent about the competition within one power and the available information is not sufficient to assess the scale of the problem.

3. Placing campaign posters in non-designated places was the most common violation recorded during the campaign period. Election management bodies and local authorities attempted to take measures toward this; however the issue is systemic and needs a legislative solution. One of the main violations was also damaging of campaign materials. Overall, 85 such cases were reported by the observers.

4․ During the campaign, there were 4 recorded cases of money or product bribe pledge or giving, whereas during the National Assembly elections of 2017, reports on vote buying were massive. The cases recorded concerned the promises made by the Republican Party of Armenia, My Step Alliance and Prosperous Armenia Party. Some investigation into few cases out of the massive reports on vote buying reported in 2017 was conducted only after the revolution.

5․ Unequal coverage of political parties by TV companies before the official start of campaign was problematic in terms of provision of equal conditions for candidates and parties by mass media.  However, during the official campaign period, this inequality was somewhat eliminated. Furthermore, the number of TV debates (first of all, debates between candidates leading the lists of alliances and parties) had a positive impact on the process. The media were generally not shy to criticize the authorities.    

 

Voting

 

In 2017, secrecy of voting was violatedin 67% of 200 precincts observed by Independent Observer public alliance  – when other adults, who were not properly registered to assist the voterappeared in the voting booth. In 2018, such violations of secrecy of voting were recorded in 27.2% of the observed precincts. In 2017, there were cases of filling ballot papers outside the voting booth in 50.5% of the precincts observed. In 2018, such cases were recorded in 25.8% of the precincts observed. It should be mentioned that during the elections, the use of observation missions by parties to ensure additional control at polling stations was done only by Prosperous Armenia Party, as observers accredited by United Leaders’ Chamber and Abovyan Student Council would introduce themselves as Prosperous Armenia Party representatives at precincts.

 

In 2017, there were cases of voters informing commission members or proxies or voicing about their vote  recorded at 29.5% of precincts. In 2018, such cases were recorded at 17.2% of precincts.

 

Arguments were recorded at 10.2% of the precincts observed. In 2017, such cases were recorded in 49.5% of the precincts observed.

 

Note that on the voting day, based on observations of polling stations, most common violations were inaccessibility of polling stations and voting for persons with disabilities, crowding at polling stations (at about 18% of the precincts observed), arguments (at about 5% of the precincts observed), presence of persons not having the right to be at the voting rooms (at about 5% of the pricincts observed), attempts to vote/voting instead of another person (at about 1% of the precincts observed), violation of observer rights (at about 2% of the precincts observed).

 

At the same time, although there has been no significant change in terms of competence and eagerness of precinct electoral commissions, higher electoral commissions and the police showed significantly more will to carry out their duties properly and to operative eliminate reported violations in a timely manner.

 

Based on the aforementioned, Independent Observer public alliance records,

 

  1. The response of relevant authorities to the issues reported during the pre-election campaign and their prevention and elimination has considerably improved. This has had a positive impact on the cooperation between the observation mission and these bodies.
  2. The requirement of nominating at least 5 candidates through district lists in each of the 13 electoral districts, the high threshold of being elected and the high electoral deposit preserved the starting disadvantages that new parties had to face. As a result, a minimum number of parties is represented in the National Assembly. Moreover, due to additional mandates allocated to parties in the minority, the mandates received by the second and third parties will not reflect the ratio of votes given to them by voters thus subordinating the constitutional norm of representativeness of the National Assembly to a norm of the Electoral Code.
  3. The voting at the RA National Assembly snap elections was conducted with minimum violations and provided the free expression of the voters’ will.

 

Independent Observer public alliance finds that the RA National Assembly snap elections held on December 9, 2018, were conducted in compliance with the RA legislation and international standards of democracy and electoral processes and the results of the voting mainly reflect the free will of voters.

 

 

Independent Observer Public Alliance in the face of

  • Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor
  • Union of Informed Citizens

 

And alliance partners

  • APR Group
  • Goris Press Club
  • "Socioscope" Societal Research and Consultancy Center", NGO 
  • “Disability and Inclusive Development” NGO
  • “Agate” rights defense center for women with disabilities                                                         

 

 

                                                           ***

“Electoral preparation and monitoring by civil society organizations in Armenia: Elections4All” project is implemented by OxYGen foundation and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor  in partnership with Investigative Journalists NGO, Yerevan School of Political Studies, Coalition for Inclusive Legal Reforms and 'Region' Research Centre. The project is funded by the European Union.

 

The publication has been prepared with the financial support of the European Union. The responsibility for the publication content lies with Independent Observer public alliance and it does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

 

Preliminary conclusions of ‘‘Independent Observer’’ public alliance on the 2018 snap elections to the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia

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