Prior to today’s parliamentary elections in Armenia – the first major electoral event since the adoption of the 2015 constitutional reforms seeking to transform the country into a parliamentary republic – not only government officials but also members of opposition forces and civil society representatives would often express the conviction that the upcoming elections would be conducted in a free, fair, and transparent manner. To support their assertions, they would bring up the introduction of electronic voting machines, the publication of the official electoral roll in advance, and other innovations as an “antidote” to the possible use of so-called carousels, where voters are driven on buses to vote multiple times. The voting process on the actual election day, however, has revealed persistent instances of voter fraud across the country.
malfunctioning electronic devices
Daniel Ioanissyan, member of the local Independent Observer monitoring group, told Epress.am; “Prior to the elections, we thought that the main violations would occur outside the polling stations – use of administrative resources, voter bribes – but the day has shown persistent fraud in the actual election process.”
According to reports, the electronic voting devices have been malfunctioning in 60 percent of polling stations. Nare Hovhannisyan, an observer at a polling station in Yerevan’s Davitashen district, told Epress.am that members of the election commission insist that the machine failures are connected with problems with the Internet provider. The observers, however, note that devices do not need syncing to the Internet to function properly.
An observer at an Avan district polling station, meanwhile, has reported that the electronic devices often fail to identify the voters’ fingerprints.
Three observers at several Davitashen polling stations refused to identify themselves to an Epress.am reporter or say which monitoring mission they represented. At the same time, they kept their identity badges in their breast pockets.
An Independent Observer monitor recorded a similar incident at the 3/31 polling station in Kanaker-Zeytun. The monitor found a voter list on one of the pseudo-observers, with markings that showed who of those listed had shown up to the voting. The monitor reported the violation to the head of the election commission who removed the man from the premises of the station only to bring him back later, citing a decision by the Central Election Commission.
A total of 28.000 people have registered as voters with the CEC, 21 000 of whom, according to Daniel Ioannisyan, from unknown or suspicious organizations.
assistance and control
Ahead of the elections, civil society activists and opposition representatives would praise the recent electoral code change, according to which, persons rendering assistance to voters were not allowed to offer their help to more than one person at a single polling station. Observers, however, report that the same people keep limitlessly “helping” voters. “There is a concerningly large number of assisters, and some of them have already ‘helped’ several voters. We keep a record of these violations. There have been obvious instances where voters did not require any assistance – they were simply being controlled. In such cases, we try to help and protect the voters, and urge them to cast their votes with no strangers around.” observer Ani Hakobyan told Epress.am.