Statement of Armenian Civil Society on Elections

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, express our deep concern with the pre-election period, the election campaign and the post-election processes in the country. The assessment of international observers, even though portrayed in a positive light by the government and the government controlled media, was critical. However, the apparent discrepancy between the actual findings of the assessment with the formative first two sentences of the report resulted in the government only referring to this paragraph in the international observers’ assessment in order to legitimize the results of the election. Meanwhile, in the report, international observers pointed out to media censorship, intimidation of voters, vote buying, etc. and called vote count ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ in 16 percent of polling stations visited. Qualifying such practices as a “step forward” and in line with the commitments to hold free and fair elections discredits the notion of democracy and further lowers the standards of democratic reforms.
A number of undersigned organizations observed the elections during the voting day as well as the process prior and post February 19. The instances of violations are numerous and are documented in our reports.
We are particularly concerned with the Freedom of Media/Access to Media, Violence, Corruption and Use of Administrative Resources, Arrests of Public Figures.
One of the main points that the OSCE/ODHIR observation mission made in its interim report concerned the need to establish public trust in the electoral process. Deep rooted mistrust and often-referred-to public apathy is nothing else but self-preservation reaction of the Armenian people vs. the atmosphere of impunity for those who perpetrated electoral fraud in all past elections. The processes taking place after the elections are alarming and will definitely deepen the public distrust.
We believe that as long as electoral fraud goes uninvestigated and unpunished, there will be no trust in the process and in the legal and judicial system.
We believe that only through open and widely inclusive public discussion over the above stated problems and violations it is possible to foster the atmosphere of trust and public confidence.
In view of the above, we state that this election was not held in correspondence with our understanding of democratic values and practices.
We believe that the way the authorities handle the fraud will be indicative of the honest determination to abide by the rules of democratic free and fair elections.
We call upon the international community to see through the commitment of the Armenian government to comply with the procedure and to require documentation of proper investigation and due punishment of those who violated the law.
We call upon the Armenian government to stop politically motivated detentions. These are not calls for impunity, but a call for the government to set the example for the Armenian people and to act within the law.
We call upon the international community to make objective conclusions based on their own findings and not to discredit the notion of democracy, democratic standards and principles, as well as the international organizations carrying out an observation mission.
Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression
Helsinki Committee of Armenia
Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor Branch
“Asparez” Journalists’ Club
“Internews-Armenia” Media Support NGO
Media Diversity Institute
Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia
Transparency International Anti-corruption Center
Yerevan Press Club

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant