Vote 2013: PACE highlights concerns over voter lists, political environment ahead of presidential ballot in Armenia

A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which was on a two-day visit to Armenia to assess the pre-election situation in the country, has concerns mainly about the “continuing substantial inaccuracies in the voter lists”.

The main PACE delegation consisting of 22 observers will arrive in Yerevan a few days before the election to observe the electoral process, but the observations made before that are already alarming.

Head of the PACE election monitoring mission Karin Woldseth said that “the delegation was disappointed to see that the previous recommendations regarding the voter lists have not been implemented”, whereas “accurate voter lists are an essential prerequisite for any proper election.”

The head of the delegation, speaking about the political situation in Armenia, characterized it as “unfortunate” because “a month before the voting the public does not have a sufficient interest, or confidence in the electoral process”, which has been created because of the decision by the main political parties not to field candidates, which also accounts for the distrust towards the electoral process.

“This decision has limited voters’ choice, leading to a more regrettable situation and casting the shadow of general indifference and mistrust over the upcoming elections,” said Woldseth.

But members of the delegation find it commendable that the political forces in question did not follow that decision with calls for a boycott. They think that a boycott should be avoided as “voting is a major democratic value.”

Members of the observation mission also touched upon alleged vote buying practices and use of administrative resources in Armenian elections. They are fairly optimistic on this account.

“Of course, we are against election bribes, and allegations on this account have also reached us. We have discussed the issue with representatives of the police, so that steps be taken in this direction. Let’s hope it does not happen again,” said Woldseth in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Problems regarding the extensive use of administrative resources and threats, according to the observers, “have been addressed so as to exclude the repetition of such phenomena.”

A week before, 24 long-term observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) arrived in Armenia to start their mission, with 250 short-term observers expected to arrive shortly before the election scheduled for February 18. OSCE/ODIHR observers are also hopeful that the Armenian authorities conduct elections in accordance with international standards.

“We have come here to observe and not to criticize or make some impositions,” stressed OSCE/ODIHR mission head Heidi Tagliavini in recent remarks.