Still Counting: Outcome of referendum not expected to change due to recount

Still Counting: Outcome of referendum not expected to change due to recount

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An ongoing recounting of ballots in Armenia’s recent constitutional referendum has so far revealed that it is only the pro-government camp that has seen its tally rising. Still, members of the opposition accuse the authorities of foul play.

According to preliminary official results, “Yes” won nearly two-thirds of the popular vote (more than 825,000 votes) and nearly twice as many as the opposition-backed “No” in the Sunday polls held to decide whether Armenia should adopt a parliamentary model of government during the next electoral cycle in 2017-2018.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) has ordered recounts in dozens of polling precincts following requests from contesting parties. But it turns out that not only “No” supporters have been requesting the procedure, but also some pro-government election officials representing the “Yes” camp.

It turned out on December 8 that as a result of recounts in 19 polling precincts in 11 electoral districts the number of “Yes” votes has increased by 4, while the number of “No” votes has decreased by 31 (on account of being recognized as invalid). The number of invalidated ballot papers has reportedly increased by 27.

Applications for recounts in a total of 78 polling stations had been submitted to the CEC by the deadline late on Monday. The process that started on Tuesday must be completed within five days.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC), which has applied for recounts in eight polling precincts where it says “the most disgraceful violations” were committed, says it fears obstructions in the process. ANC parliamentary leader Levon Zurabyan told ArmeniaNow that to make the process more difficult and potentially create a situation in which there will be no time left for recounts in the indicated polling stations, pro-government loyalists from election commissions inundated the CEC with dozens of requests.

“As a result of all draws [held to decide the succession of recounts] it is the requests by the government loyalists that get to be prioritized,” said Zurabyan. He also said that the process began with a two-hour delay and that only four instead of eight officials came to administer the process (under the current regulations a four-member team is required for one ballot-box recount) apparently to avoid a situation in which they would be able to recount two ballot-boxes at a time.

Zurabyan believes this way the authorities are “sabotaging” the ballot recount process so as to use up all five days set aside for it and never get to recount the ballots at the precincts indicated by the opposition.

Despite allegations of electoral fraud and serious irregularities made by opposition groups and supported by local and some international monitoring missions, election officials in Armenia say no serious violations took place in the voting process.

Members of the ruling Republican Party acknowledge that there could be separate cases of violations but insist that they cannot impact the outcome of the vote.