Village Consolidation Referendum: CEC Describes the Process Positive while Observers Reported Violations
The Central Electoral Commission informs no violation was reported at the May 17 referendum held in three regions in Armenia. Meanwhile, the Head of the Electoral Systems Center which observed the referendum speaks about the observed violations and his concerns.

Earlier on May 17 the first ever local referendum was conducted in 22 communities in Syunik (8 polling stations), Lori (7 polling stations) and Tavush (7 polling stations) regions. The referendum on the village consolidation program was initiated by the Government.

34 polling stations were set in 22 communities throughout Armenia. In the pre-referendum period the Central Electoral Commission held trainings both for election committees at polling districts and those at polling stations.

The Media Center held a panel discussion on the results of the village consolidation referendum. The speakers included: Vahram Vardanyan, Head of the Electoral Systems Center, NGO; Nune Hovhannisyan, member of the Central Electoral Commission; and Lilia Hakobyan, Head of the Law Department at the Central Electoral Commission.

Nune Hovhannisyan said the law on the local referendum was amended to comply with the election code.

“We have received no report about any violation on the referendum day. The election committees of the polling districts have studied the registers at the polling stations and there was no violation record,” Hovhannisyan said.

Lilia Hakobyan spoke on the referendum results. “In three villages in Lori the majority voted against the consolidation whereas the other four villages are for it. The same results are recorded in Tavush region. As for Syunik, the majority of voters in eight communities voted in favor,” Hakobyan said.

Three NGOs were accredited as observers: Goris Press Club, Liberalism and Democracy NGO, and Electoral Systems Center NGO.

The Electoral Systems Center observed the referendum in Tavush while in Lori there was not any monitoring group.

Vahram Vardanyan said both media and observer organizations were passive in covering and monitoring the referendum.

“First of all, there were gaps in the law on Local Referendum and Election Code. Before the referendum day government representatives went through regions and campaigned for people to vote in favor which is banned by the law on Local Referendum of Armenia,” Vardanyan said.

“In Teghut a ballot was lost. Then, the committee members intended to stuff the ballot boxes because they kept saying: “The votes are few, let’s do something about it.” But they did not manage to do anything as our observer was there,” Vardanyan added.

Another concern Vardanyan spoke on is the participation in the referendum with identification cards since the monitoring becomes more difficult in this case.

Nune Hovhannisyan clarified: “Both observers and journalists are free to monitor the work of a committee member. The Election Code fixes flexible mechanisms to ban double voting. When a voter comes to the polling place, the document data are written in front of his name in the register and he cannot vote for the second time.”

Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator

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