YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Central Election Commission (CEC) said on Wednesday that it will hire 4,000 computer-savvy people to operate anti-fraud electronic equipment in all polling stations during Armenia’s April 2 parliamentary elections.
The Armenian authorities agreed to install such machines designed to verify voters’ identity as part of a recent agreement with the parliamentary opposition which is aimed ensuring the proper conduct of the vote. This is supposed to neutralize what opposition groups say is a key source of electoral fraud: multiple voting by government loyalists.
The landmark agreement also mandates live online broadcasts of voting and ballot counting in the country’s 2,000 or so polling stations. The European Union and the United States have welcomed the deal, promising millions of dollars in funding for the purchase of the equipment envisaged by it.
“In line with the Electoral Code, the precinct election commissions will register voters with the help of special equipment,” Tigran Mukuchian, the CEC chairman, told reporters. He said each of those commissions will have two additional officials tasked with taking voters’ fingerprints and checking them through special computers.
In Mukuchian’s words, the 4,000 officials will be chosen on a competitive basis in the coming weeks. He insisted that the CEC has sufficient time to organize the selection process. “These individuals must undergo special two-day training,” he said.
Mukuchian also revealed that the CEC has already called a tender for a company that will be in charge of the unprecedented broadcasts planned for election day. He refused to be drawn on possible technical problems that could disrupt them.
Echoing statements by Armenian opposition leaders, the U.S. and the EU have cautioned that the planned anti-fraud measures alone do not guarantee the freedom and fairness of the upcoming elections. “It is a matter of political will,” the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said in a November statement.