I would say that the National Assembly elections held on May 6 in Armenia were the most calm and peaceful polls we have seen in the past 10 years. Mind you, calm and peaceful doesn’t mean democratic.
President Sarkisian’s Republican party leaders are calling these the best elections Armenia has seen in the past decade. Sure enough, Republicans have won a clear majority in the proportional vote gaining 43.94 percent of the vote and are headed towards winning an unquestionable majority in parliament as their majoritarian candidates, including a full range of oligarchs, come out of the elections as winners.
Two major opposition forces – Armenian National Congress (HAK) and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) claim widespread bribing of voters. HAK coordinator Levon Zurabian went further and called the elections “disgraceful,” saying that the authorities have resorted to “the full range of falsifications” to secure an election victory for the incumbent authorities.
The OSCE/ODIHR, which ran the largest and most authoritative international election observation mission has issued a statement, which would be best described as confusing.
“The election campaign was open and respected fundamental freedoms, and the media offered broad and balanced coverage during the official campaign period,” said Radmila Šekerinska, the Head of the Election Observation Mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. “Unfortunately, this was overshadowed by concerns over the accuracy of voter lists and violations of the Electoral Code that created an unequal playing field.”
There are more than 1000 alerts on iditord.org – a crowdsourced map of electoral violations run by my organization Media Diversity Institute – Armenia. Most of those alerts are about bribing the voters. A vast majority come from untrusted sources or lack enough specificity to really go after the violators. It is, however, an evidence, that at least one claim of the opposition, that widespread vote buying took place, may hold ground.
On the personal level, I hear a lot of gossip about voters being bribed in favor of Republicans, Prosperous Armenia and Rule of Law parties. Most of the rumors fail my basic test by the 5W question – who, what, when, where, why… But the rumors are there and they tend to be blown up when politicians add fuel to the fire. Let’s just hope, that the so far calm and peaceful elections won’t grow into another March 1 violence we witnessed in 2008.
The intrigue of the day is of course the response of the Prosperous Armenia (Bargavach Hayastan) party to the elections. A lot, if not everything, depends on their moves now. The party led by Armenia’s richest tycoon Gagik Tsarukian received 30.13% of the proportional vote and is winning several majoritarian seats. Prosperous Armenia joined HAK and Dashnaktsutyun in issued a critical statement about the elections this night, but they have refrained from going further today.
And they are silent. And the pressure grows…