Widespread Irregularities Mar Armenian Election

One of the polling stations (photo by Nanore Barsoumian)

From The Armenian Weekly

YEREVAN—Disappearing stamps, unidentified men, escorts, and multi-votes: Facts and rumors painted a chaotic image of the elections as they happened in eight polling stations visited by the Armenian Weekly.

Stamps disappearing from voters’ passports became one of the first news items on voting irregularities on the morning of May 6, when Armenians went to the polls for the Parliamentary elections. The stamps were intended to leave no trace behind within 24 hours. However, some disappeared in less than an hour.

One man pointed at the far right corner of a clean page in his passport, “It was right there,” he told the Armenian Weekly. He voted at 8:05 at polling station 6/02, minutes after the polls opened. By 8:40, the ink had entirely disappeared, he said. All but a tiny speck remained (see photo).

The eight polling stations the Weekly visited included one in the Kentron (central Yerevan); and seven in Achapniag district, a poorer area in Yerevan (there are 41 districts in the country, and around 2,000 polling places). Most followed the rule of allowing no more than 15 voters into the voting area. Entrances at all but one station were quite crowded, where patience seemed to run low. Party representatives, and sometimes observers and journalists stood or sat in the voting area, provided they had the proper identification card, while between one and four dozen people loitered around the buildings.

He voted at 8:05 at polling station 6/02, minutes after the polls opened. By 8:40, the ink had entirely disappeared, he said. (photo by Nanore Barsoumian)

Little black cameras were propped up high above voters, or stationed at the corners of desks. Six parties had agreed to install the cameras in as many polling stations as they could. Although they might have caught visible voter fraud practices, spotting some of the more serious allegations may prove to be an almost impossible task.

Some of the allegations at the polling stations the Weekly visited included suspicion that some voters used red pens on the ballot, as part of a vote buying scheme—in hopes that ballots marked with red would be counted to make certain that all the “purchased” votes are there. There were also rumors that vanloads of voters were being driven around to various polling stations to cast multiple votes using different identification cards. The Armenian Weekly was unable to verify these claims.

One observer the Weekly spoke with confirmed rumors that men escorted small groups of people. “Some men were coming back after voting, which is illegal. They would return, and escort others in. We told the chairman of the local election commission, and they got thrown out,” Ani Karapetyan from Kentron TV channel told the Armenian Weekly.

Karapetyan noticed another problem as well. Two or three men without identification badges were sticking around in the voting station. When she asked them where their badges were, they said they were representatives of the Republican Party, and claimed their ID cards were in their pockets. Karapetyan told them that they were required to have them in a visible place. They left soon after, without showing her their badges.

The Weekly experienced a similar incident, when a man asking not to be photographed failed to produce the required badge. The man who claimed he was a representative of the Republican Party, and who was frequently interacting with voters, left almost immediately after the Weekly inquired about his identity and the absence of his identification card.

What seemed strange was the presence of observers, and even journalists, who seemed unaware of what organization they represented, or had to check their badges to identify themselves. One such man remained in the lobby of the school that served as a polling station for the entire hour the Weekly was present there. He asked the addresses of voters and directed them either towards the right, or left—to either of the two polling stations.

In another particularly chaotic polling station an argument broke out between a Republican Party and Prosperous party representatives. The latter claimed the Republican was standing too close to the cardboard cubicle where voters cast their ballots.

The Weekly was also alerted about a picture of President Serzh Sarkisian—who heads the Republican Party list— at the aforementioned voting station. Keeping his picture in the voting area would be tantamount to campaigning, which is prohibited within polling stations.

In the neighboring polling station—separated by a line of low benches unable to stop the flow of people between the two stations—the chairman suffered from an epileptic seizure. The station was closed to voters for around 40 minutes.

iDitord.org, a website that allows observers to submit their reports, shows that there have been 1,036 instances of voting irregularities. These included 283 reports of bribery and pressuring; 178 cases of campaigning; and 134 instances of disruptions of the voting process. Some of the reports claim that when people approached to register their vote, it was revealed that their names had been crossed off already—in other words, others had voted in their name. One observer said “Pjni” mineral waters bearing the name of the Republican Party were distributed in one district. Another observer said that a “carousel” was organized at polling station 11/02, where a pre-marked ballot is given to a voter who has to return with an unmarked one in order to get paid.

So far, the preliminary results show that the Republicans received the most votes, 44.35 percent; they were followed by the Prosperous Armenia Party, with 30.26 percent; the Armenian National Congress, 7.1 percent; Heritage party, 5.79 percent; the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, 5.73 percent; the Country of Law party, a member of the current governing coalition barely cleared the 5 percent threshold, the Armenian Communist Party, 1.06 percent; and the Armenian Democratic Party, 0.36 percent.

The Central Electoral Commission has said official results will be publicized in a few days, while all parties reserved their announcements for Tuesday.

In all, 90 of the 131 seats in parliament will be allotted according to the percentage of the vote given to a political party. The remaining 41 seats were determined in individual candidate elections.

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  1. john mardian said:

    I disagree with your opinion.. In the opinion of million of Armenians there was “no” wide spread irregularity. Please, be neutral and fair. And don’t take sides.

  2. MK said:

    Did you expect anything better from this corrupt and lying Serzh.

  3. christo said:

    31,451 observers from local non-government organizations were registered to oversight the election.[30] Largest ones are the “Panarmenian Youth Association” (Համահայկական երիտասարդական ասոցիացիա) with 5,555 observers, “The Choice is Yours” (Ընտրությունը քոնն է) with 4,000 observers, “Free Society Institute” (Ազատ հասարակության ինստիտուտ) with 2,512 observers and “Fist” (Բռունցք) with 2,136 observers. Other organizations have less than 2,000 observers.

  4. Alex Postallian said:

    When Kirk Kerkorian donated over 300 million to U.C.L.A.and not Armenia,he knew inside story of the crooked politcians He knew the poor people wouldnt get a sou.

  5. Hrair said:

    Hi, I respect the legacy and good will of all people in ARF , all fellow Armenians who do get involved in national matters of importance and take part.
    I respect past and present hard work of all community, political, social, cultural organizations and bow front of their relentless efforts to remedy the wounds and needs of Armenian nation after the catastrophe of the 1915 genocide. I agree and realize that that not everything is perfect in the political, social economic reality in the Republic of Armenia of today. At the same time I realize that the same is true in any given country to some degree, even in here in USA that is considered to be the bastion of democracy and freedom. I respect and value all the hard work that many individuals and organizations are doing to positively contribute, improve, and resolve many real problems here in our country (USA) as well as in Armenia. But I’m sorry to say that I disagree with this article and its tone, this sort of outlook and attitude screams sour grapes syndrome… that is neither constructive nor positive. At no time there ever was an ideal condition, politician or democracy per say at any one place… ( not to mention in Armenia)Please mercy the Armenian nation further wasting energy on divisive sectarian politics, egos and ambitions. Let’s continue the good work that everyone does for the sake of the nation and pan Armenian aspirations, the Hay Tad, etc. Serving the nation does not get recognized by a throne, title or position… People know about all the wrongs and all the violators / crooks … this is not news, as they say “it came this way and will go on this way” and that “the honey vendor will always leak its finger”… Please just show me a virtuous politician… Please… anywhere… just one…
    Armenian nation has more pressing issues, like the Hay tad, the genocide related reparations , Like strengthening Artsak and Armenia’s border towns and borders, improving the social- economic conditions, like preservation of national identity/ language etc . in the diaspora and others.

  6. Armen said:

    Based on current situation of unemployment and people leaving the country out of desperation…current government is unable to manage the society & its needs. This situation requires fundamental changes to current government.

  7. Tsoghig said:

    The best thing i took from this article was that diasporan Armenians are there monitoring and calling out Sarkisyan’s voting “irregularaties” and they are not getting beat up for it. Although i am sure the Armenians of Armenia may get annoyed by the diaspora, there is no other country that has such a vibrant diaspora trying to help Armenia become the awesome country it has the potential of being. I hope i am not coming off as condescending.

  8. ArdeVast Atheian said:

    I am dismayed that Kirk Kerkorian has donated his $300 billion to UCLA. Our own precious Armenia needs and deserves that money far more than UCLA. If something is not right in Armenia I say invest your money in trying to change it. Kirk could have donated that money to Tashnagtsutiun with the specific purpose of rewarding politicians who are not corrupt. You don’t end corruption by washing your hands off it but by investing your money in activities that will end that corruption. Money is the way to accomplish anything and everything those days.
    All of us strive for a non-corrupt government in Armenia but we never deny our precious little Armenia the means to achieve it.
    Kirk for the sacred cause of our own Armenia, please reconsider your donation.