Armenian presidential election observer of OSCE and former Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Ireland Dermot Ahern sent a letter to Armenian Bar Association Chairman Garo Ghazarian detailing fraud he witnessed during the February 18 election, particularly in Precinct 26/1, where he claims a landslide for Raffi Hovannisian was converted into a victory for the incumbent.
Below is the text of the letter:
Dear Garo Ghazarian, Chairman of the Armenian Bar Association
March 5, 2013
You might remember that we spoke at length on the plane from Yerevan to Paris, just after the presidential election. I indicated to you that I felt uneasy about what happened in the polling station and in the TEC that I observed on the day of the election.
To recap, I and my German colleague Hedda Haars observed six polling stations during the day and as instructed by the OSCE core team, we finished observing the election in PEC 26/1 Yeghvard Elementary School No 3. From what we saw, from 7 PM to the close at 8 PM, everything was done correctly.
The presiding officer and team proceeded to count the votes. Again, everything was done in accordance with the instructions. The presiding officer showed to everyone, including ourselves, our interpreter, our driver as well as a proxy on behalf of the incumbent, every vote once he had taken it from the envelope.
Immediately, it transpired that Raffi was hovering up the votes. This caused some surprise with the local participants. Indeed, it became somewhat embarrassing in that virtually every vote was for Raffi. Every odd time, a vote came out for the incumbent, there was a slight laugh from some of the locals. On and on, it continued with Raffi getting virtually all of the votes. The proxy for the incumbent was tallying in a very methodical way and I could see clearly from his tally that Raffi was way ahead. In fact, he actually ran out of paper, Raffi got so many votes over the incumbent. At about 9:15 PM. I sent a text to my principal to say that with 30 percent of the votes counted Raffi was at least 3 to 1 ahead.
During this time and up until when we left, a number of invalid votes were declared. For instance, one vote was declared invalid because the voter had voted for everyone, except the incumbent. Another vote was invalid because the voter voted for somebody who previously contested an election, but not this one. A number of other votes were declared invalid because they did not have the correct mark or indeed no mark at all. I estimated that there were more than 10 during our time there between 8 PM and 10 PM when we left for the TEC.
By the time we left, we both agreed that with approximately 35% of the vote counted, Raffi was ahead by at least 3 to 1. We proceeded to the TEC 26 in Yeghvard and introduced ourselves to the TEC team. The conditions of the location for tabulation at this location were far from ideal. It consisted of two rooms separated by a corridor which meant that I stayed in the room where the chair and deputy chair met with the PEC teams as they came in with their results. My colleague Hedda stayed in the other room where a secretary entered the results from the various protocols.
I was given very little cooperation by the TEC team in that they did not offer any information to me as to the PEC teams coming in with their protocols. The lack of space made it particularly difficult for me to see anything. I had to ask for information, any time I wanted it. My interpreter and driver indicated to me that the team were somewhat uneasy about our presence.
When the results came in from number 26/1, I particularly was interested and asked for the result. This wasn’t forthcoming, but my interpreter got to see the protocol and indicated that the incumbent had beaten Raffi by 382 to 302 approximately. I was astonished by this apparent turnaround since we left the count. I tried to get more information, to no avail.
However, my interpreter then told me that he noticed on the protocol that there were zero invalid votes. I was completely taken aback by this, and I asked my interpreter to let the chair know about my astonishment.
Between then and when we finally finished the tabulation observation at approximately 3:30 AM, I was given little or no cooperation. I finally asked if I could see the final written result and the chair refused. I met up with my colleague Hedda who had expressed satisfaction with what she had seen in the other room, in that the results were properly put onto the computer. I suggested that she might ask the chairman herself for a copy of the protocol. But again he declined waving his hands in the air. We asked if they would be publishing the result and his reply was in the morning. We immediately left. We filled out the necessary form for the OSCE, having kept in constant contact with them during the night.
I’ve been practicing politician here in Ireland for 32 years, contesting and winning every election I personally fought in. I was director of elections board at national and local level for my party. I have never witnessed anything like this. From my experience, I know a trend, when I see one, and something very strange happened to overturn the result, after we left the count in PEC 26/1.
As I stated to you, I feel that full re-examination of this count should take place. I could not understand then and still now how invalid votes can become valid.
If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.
2013 presidential election observer of OSCE in Armenia, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Minister of Justice and Law Reform of the Republic of Ireland.