Armenia Election - 12 May 2007
The elections to the National Assembly were held May 12. The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission stated that the elections demonstrated improvement, and were conducted largely in accordance with international standards, though shortcomings remained. While the authorities acted to address a number of previous shortcomings, other issues were not sufficiently addressed, notably those related to the procedural regulation of the conduct of the elections campaign, and performance of election commissions during the vote count and tabulation.
In October government authorities launched large-scale tax and customs audits of businesses belonging to a leading Armenian businessman and independent member of parliament, Khachatur Sukiasian, and his family, after Sukiasian publicly voiced his support for the presidential candidacy of former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan in October. Two senior executives of Sukiasian-affiliated companies were arrested for alleged tax evasion and remained in custody at year's end in what was alleged to be a politically-motivated crackdown.
On November 15, three unidentified men attacked and severely beat Narek Galstyan, leader of the Sargis Tkhruni student-youth union of the opposition Social-Democrat Hnchakyan Party (SDHP). The attack came two days after police reportedly detained him and another member of the union for posting leaflets advertising an upcoming rally in support of presidential candidate and former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan. According to the SDHP, police mistreated Galstyan during his detention as retribution for supporting Ter-Petrosyan.
In advance of the presidential elections the opposition complained of massive harassment by the authorities. The supporters of presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrosyan accused the police and the NSS of summoning hundreds of opposition supporters for questioning and subjecting them to psychological pressure, intimidation and threats. There were also reports of persons being fired from their jobs for their political views.
The final parliamentary election results were announced May 19 and were confirmed June 10 by the Constitutional Court, which rejected four complaints calling for annulment of the results. The court nevertheless noted a number of deficiencies in the conduct of the election campaign, specifically in the areas of campaigning and campaign and party financing, as well as the existence of conflicting legal provisions in the Election Code and other legislation. In the parliamentary election, the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) won 33 percent of the votes casts, followed by Prosperous Armenia (15 percent), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) (13 percent), Rule of Law (7 percent), and the Heritage Party (6 percent). The RPA and Prosperous Armenia joined to form a governing coalition which secured an absolute majority of parliament seats. The ARF negotiated a cooperation agreement with the governing coalition in exchange for ministerial positions, but declined to join the coalition formally, instead reserving the right to support its own candidate for the February 2008 presidential election.
Despite multiple changes made to the election code, most recently on November 20, shortcomings remained. Provisions on early and indirect campaigning were unclear, and regulations on campaign finance were weak. The complaints and appeals process was inconsistent and ineffective. Sanctions against vote-buying were not implemented, and the government generally did not act upon publicly identified concerns in the absence of formal complaints.
The ODIHR election observation mission directly observed one episode of provision of goods by a political party that met the legal definition of prohibited conduct during the election campaign. On May 9, authorities arrested a person working for a single-mandate candidate in the territorial electoral commission in Hrazdan for vote buying.
Approximately one-third of polling stations that ODIHR election observers monitored did not follow the proper procedures in filling in the final vote count documents. At some stations, for example, respective Territorial Elections Committees were completing, correcting, or entirely rewriting poll results, thereby increasing potential for tampering with sensitive election documents.
The ODIHR also heard allegations that some voters were under pressure to vote for certain parties or candidates, for fear of consequences such as job dismissal. A candidate and incumbent deputy from the Syunik region confirmed that workers at a large enterprise he owned were obliged to vote for him, but he characterized this as consistent with contemporary global corporate management styles.
Incidents of election-related violence occurred. On May 28, Larisa Paremuzyan, a local head of the People's Party of Armenia, survived an arson attack on her apartment in the northern town of Alaverdi in the Shirak Region. Paremuzyan blamed the attack on Karen Saribekian from the ruling RPA, who defeated her in the May 12 parliamentary elections in a single-mandate contest. Prior to the arson attack, Paremuzyan had alleged serious irregularities during the vote.
According to Transparency International (TI), the RPA and Prosperous Armenia parties, the two main victors of the May 12 parliamentary elections, spent considerably more on their election campaigns than is permitted by law.
As a result of the May 2007 parliamentary elections, and with the February 2008 decision by the Country of Law Party to join the governing coalition, 113 seats out of the 131 in the National Assembly were held by pro-government parties. The sole opposition faction in parliament, the Heritage Party, holds seven seats. The remaining members of parliament were independent, although most of these were aligned de facto with the pro-government parties.
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