YEREVAN –Leading Armenian civic organizations described the mayoral elections in Yerevan as undemocratic on Monday, alleging widespread vote buying, multiple voting and other irregularities that benefited the ruling Republican Party (HHK).
Preliminary full results of Sunday’s municipal elections released by the Central Election Commission (CEC) in the morning confirmed the HHK’s landslide victory, giving it almost 56 percent of the vote and 42 seats in Yerevan’s 65-member municipal council. The comfortable majority will enable the party to reappoint Taron Markarian, the city’s incumbent Republican mayor.
The two other forces that cleared the 6- and 8-percent hurdles set for parties and blocs in the elections, the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) and the Hello Yerevan bloc, will get 17 and 7 seats, respectively, the CEC said.
“Our joint assessment is that these elections absolutely did not meet democratic standards,” Avetik Ishkhanian of the Armenian Helsinki Committee told a joint news conference of their leaders.
“Once again we had disgraceful elections. We keep getting surprised with how diverse election violations can be,” said Sona Ayvazian, deputy director of the Anti-Corruption Center (ACC), the Armenian affiliate of the Berlin-based Transparency International.
“We witnessed cases of [multiple] ‘carousel’ voting and use of pen ink of different colors,” she claimed. “Overcrowding [at polling stations] was widespread. People were ferried to polling stations, including by taxis. Multiple voting was a regular occurrence.”
Meanwhile, observers from the Council of Europe were cautious on Monday in evaluating the weekend municipal elections in Yerevan, praising technical aspects of their conduct but reserving judgment on their freedom and fairness.
“With the exception of a few incidents in those polling stations visited by the observation team of the Congress, the vote was carried out in a calm and orderly manner and the elections were technically well-prepared,” Stewart Dickson, the British head of the mission, said, presenting its preliminary conclusions.