It’s been two weeks since the May 6 elections and while thankfully there weren’t riots and tanks in the street, not everyone is satisfied with the results. The vice-Chair of the Armenian Bar Association in the U.S. has said they were not free and fair. The ex-Foreign Minister, who is a member of the Prosperous Armenia Party, the second most powerful party, said the Republicans used “new election rigging methods.” The President of A1+ news (A1+ news became internet-only after the government refused to renew their broadcasting license) said that the election was elaborately executed to make it seem like there was free and unbiased coverage. The opposition party (Armenian National Congress) is going to the Constitutional Court to declare the whole election null and void. The “Sardarapat Movement” wants to hold alternative elections that will better represent the will of the people.
Of more significance, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) observed 978 precincts in Armenia and highly praised the execution of the election. The U.S. Ambassador also highly praised the election. The big players that have yet to release reports are the OSCE and the Human Rights Ombudsman.
Armenia really wants a thumbs-up from the OSCE, as that will substantially support the idea that they are a modern nation based on the rule of law. The problem is that this is only moderately true. While there were a number of minor glitches I reported about in the first election post, what is turning out to be the biggest issue is vote buying. Both agents of the Republicans and the Prosperous Armenia Party were found with fat stacks of cash and notebooks of voter names. It’s not clear how much payment for a secret vote would change people’s actions (“of course I voted for you, now give me my money.”). Considering in the last election at least one box of votes was taken away by thugs and then returned (and accepted!), there is reason to doubt whether one’s vote would remain secret in this election. It’s unknown whether there is an ongoing police examination on the vote buying issue but the Human Rights Ombudsman is examining the issue. In the more rural areas, the Republicans and Prosperous were blatant and gave away tractors in contests and chickens to ensure votes, so secret vote buying isn’t too surprising.
Read on to Elections: Final Statement.