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Draft Constitution Referendum Results Illegitimate, Observers Say

Official results of the December 6 nationwide referendum on draft constitutional amendments do not reflect the free will of the citizens of Armenia and should not be considered legitimate, representatives of local and international observation missions stated Monday in a joint news conference in Yerevan, recording, among other electoral violations, numerous instances of ballot stuffing and directed voting, unprecedented intimidation of observers and reporters.

European Platform for Democratic Elections representative Sergey Tkachenko said that at least 2 of the 6 international delegations overseeing the electoral process violated the international standards of monitoring. Mikhail Petrushin, a member of the CIS monitoring mission, for instance, told reporters at noon on Sunday that the voting process was going in accordance with the law and that CIS observers had found no problems. Head of Russia's Central Electoral Commission Vladimir Churov also announced the referendum was going normally and he had observed no violations during the voting.

Norwegian Helsinki Committee expert Lene Wetteland, on the other hand, said in the press conference that their observers had registered numerous violations. Pressure and intimidation against journalists and observers, she said, reached unprecedented high levels during Sunday's referendum.

Head of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor office (HCAV) Artur Sakunts talked about differences between numbers counted by their observers and those released officially, which speaks of ballot stuffing. 

Sakunts added that at several polling stations their observers were told by electoral commission members they'd lose their day jobs if they didn't leave the voting precincts immediately: “These are not random episodes – these incidents were unprecedented and systematic,” he claimed. 

Europe in Law Association lawyer Tigran Yegoryan underlined “the incredible differences” between the outcomes in monitored polling stations from those in unmonitored polling stations: “These results are impossible and need serious explanation. There can't be such contrast between two adjacent voting precincts in the same community. This speaks explicitly of intervention.”