YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Observers representing the leading pan-European organizations on Monday described the weekend parliamentary elections in Armenia as democratic, saying that they witnessed virtually no serious irregularities.
The more than 300 observers mostly deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) gave the most positive assessment ever by a Western-led monitoring mission of major elections held in the South Caucasus nation.
In a joint statement, they said the snap polls won by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliances enjoyed “broad public trust” and were marked by a “general absence of electoral malfeasance, including of vote buying and pressure on voters.”
“Election day proceeded calmly and peacefully with all stages assessed positively by almost all [mission] observers, indicating general adherence to the procedures,” read the statement.
“The vote count was assessed positively in all but two polling stations observed, indicating that the counting process was conducted without significant procedural violations,” it added.
“I congratulate the Armenian people,” Aleksander Pociej, the head of a delegation of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) that was part of the monitoring mission.
“[Armenia’s] 2018 peaceful ‘velvet’ revolution, in conjunction with the political will of the current authorities, enabled the holding of democratic elections,” Pociej told a joint news conference with the other mission chiefs.
“Democracy cannot proceed without trust, so I am pleased that broad public trust was the central characteristic of this election,” said Peter Osusky, who led 250 or so short-term observers deployed by the OSCE.
Heidi Hautala, a European Parliament member, likewise stated that there were “minimum irregularities” in Sunday’s vote, unlike in the previous Armenian parliamentary elections that were held in April 2017 and also monitored by her.
A similar OSCE-led mission cited at the time “credible information about vote-buying and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.” The then ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) was widely accused of resorting to the illegal practices.
“Positively, electoral stakeholders did not report any systematic efforts of vote-buying and other electoral malfeasance,” the European observers said this time around.
In their preliminary findings, they also praised Armenian media coverage of the parliamentary race. They said local broadcasters, who remain the main source of information for voters, “made a visible effort to cover all electoral contestants.”
“The public television provided a reasonably balanced coverage,” said their statement. “Positively, a number of media, including the public television, organized genuine debates, bringing together candidates from all the contestants.”
The HHK claimed throughout the election campaign that its activists across the country are summoned by police officials and warned against telling people to vote for the former ruling party. Urszula Gacek, the head of the European monitoring mission, said her observers were aware of the alleged harassment but found no evidence of it.