By Rashid Shirinov
The April 2 parliamentary elections in Armenia, like the previous elections in this country, were held with a number of violations and fraud, and this was noted by a number of Armenian opposition members, local and international observers and journalists.
Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan's Republican Party is leading with almost the half of the vote – 49.12 percent, according to the preliminary results of the elections.
As for other parties, the opposition coalition behind Gagik Tsarukian – one of the ex-Soviet state's wealthiest men – is trailing with 27.32 percent; the block Yelk ranks third with 7.77 percent; while the nationalist Dashnaktsutyun possesses 6.57 percent of the vote.
Even before the elections began, the European Union, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom issued a statement, saying that the states were “aware of and concerned by allegations of voter intimidation, attempts to buy votes, and the systemic use of administrative resources to aid certain competing parties.”
Notably, over the past year, the EU, the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. offered significant financial and technical support to Armenia’s voting process, including providing equipment to facilitate a free and fair parliamentary election on April 2.
However, it is now clear that the Armenian government has just wasted the provided money. Instead of holding transparent and clean elections at the expense of the funds, the authorities spent them on bribing the Armenian population.
Even before the polls closed on April 2, the opposition of Armenia accused authorities of fraud in the elections, as people with lists were walking around the Armenian cities and were 'directing' the voters.
In the course of voting, the light at polling stations was turning off and technical equipment and surveillance cameras were malfunctioning. At some stations, the proxies from Armenian parties had to sit on ballot boxes to prevent frauds, as they had no other way to stop the lawlessness. Witnesses noted that many voters came to polling stations with 'accompanying persons', who were making people vote for the ruling Republican Party.
On the next day, the Prosecutor General's office of Armenia reported that it had investigated about 2,000 reports on the violations during the voting, and 392 of these reports indeed contain criminal elements.
The agency reported that criminal cases were already launched into six facts, related to double voting attempt, and a suspect on one case was detained.
However, the Prosecutor General's office probably diminished the number of reports on violations, as the observes and representatives of the Armenian opposition presented more cases of fraud in the elections.
By and large, the reports were about the cases of voting more than once or instead of another person, open voting, and obstructing the work of proxies and journalists during the elections.
The international observers Atom Egoyan and Eric Nazaryan noted certain election violations having visited six polling stations. During a live broadcast, they showed a list, which contained notes indicating the number of votes cast for a specific party.
“A person sat at the ballot box and made notes, and later reported the number of voters to his party,” Nazaryan says.
Another fact of violation was observed by Armenia’s Radio Liberty correspondent Sisak Gabrielian. The journalist was attacked near the polling station and the headquarters of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia when he tried to shot the fact of bribery by the Party.
Moreover, radio Azatutyun.am reported that ballot papers were taken out of the polling station in Zangak kindergarten in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri. A group of women was handing out bulletins near the polling station and accompanying people inside. The process was led by a middle-aged woman, who is known for providing fake votes for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia for years.
Besides, Arsine Khanjyan, Canadian actress of Armenian origin, who acted as an observer in the election, regretted that she couldn’t witness a transparent and clean election.
“Violations recorded by observers were refused to register. I had an impression that the observers were in despair, as they didn’t have freedom for the exercise of their powers,” Khanjyan says.
Moreover, international observers from the Council of Europe, OSCE and the European Parliament also noted the violations in their statement following the elections.
The statements reads that “the parliamentary elections in Armenia were tainted by credible information about vote-buying and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.”
It was also stated that the elections did not remove long-standing doubts about the reliability and integrity of electoral processes in Armenia.
Thus, the Armenian government has again failed to conduct fair elections in the country. Being afraid of losing its seats in the National Assembly of Armenia, the Republican Party used bribery and fraud at the polling stations. And it is not surprising that the ruling Republican Party won 49 percent of votes...
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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