Council of Europe Declares Local Elections in Armenia Free And Fair

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–A delegation of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe observed the second local elections in Armenia on October 24 at the invitation of the Armenian authorities. The delegation visited 88 polling stations in the regions of Yerevan–Ararat–Armavir–Aragatsotn–Kotayk–Vayots Dzor and Gegharkunik and monitored the counting process at five polling stations.

The delegation noted that the visited polling stations were well organized and that voting and counting was carried out in conformity with the current law. There was a significant improvement in managing the electoral process compared to the first local elections held in 1996. Based on its observations–the delegation declared the local elections to be free and fair.

Nevertheless–the observers recorded several minor irregularities–in particular the electoral lists–and drew the attention of the Armenian authorities to the necessity of regularly updating the electoral registers.

In several constituencies the observer teams noted a low level of participation and an insufficient number of candidates for local councils seats.

The results of the observation mission will be included in a report which CLRAE will submit to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly as part of a dossier for consideration of Armenia’s membership in the council.

A detailed report on the elections–including recommendations–will be prepared by Gabor Kolumban of Romania (Chamber of Regions) and Claude Casagrande of France (Chamber of Local Authorities). It will be adopted by the CLRAE Standing Committee and forwarded to the Armenian authorities.

CLRAE estimates the process of local elections in Armenia as positive in general–Kolumban and Casagrande said during a press conference on October 26.

Kolumban said–however–that according to the commission–it would be better if Yerevan’s mayor was also elected. The observers in general consider that "the number of elected local authorities in Armenia’should be increased and be provided with broader powers."

"We are also concerned by the circumstance that nomination for elective bodies in Armenia is a matter of finance," Kolumban noted. "We understand that it corresponds to your traditions and mentality–but the concept of election deposit restricts the freedom of candidate nomination," Kolumban stressed.

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