“Are there Sufficient Grounds for Holding Free and Fair Elections in Armenia?”
A discussion entitled “Are there Sufficient Grounds for Holding Free and Fair Elections in Armenia?” was held at Media Center on February 23.

Lernik Aleksanyan, The Republican Party of Armenia, Aram Manukyan, “The Armenian National Congress and the People's Party” Alliance, Styopa Safaryan, “Free Democrats” Party, Arayik Harutyunyan, “Yelk” Alliance, Artak Sargsyan, Armenian Revolutionary Federation” Party, were the speakers of the discussion.

The current Electoral Code creates more problems than it supports making quality elections.

According to the participants of the discussion, the organization of free and fair elections, first of all, requires a quality electoral code. However, the current RA Electoral Code is extremely controversial and creates additional difficulties for voters, organizers and political forces.

Artak Sargsyan, highlighting the necessity of quality legal basis for holding elections, stressed at the same time that other conditions are also required for having high-quality elections. 

“To hold free and fair elections, of course, not only a legal framework should ensure them. First and foremost, it has social and economic grounds; it is also connected with political culture and, of course, depends on what kind of political will would be demonstrated by the political parties participating in the elections for holding credible elections,” Artak Sargsyan said.  

Stepan Safaryan was concerned about the complexity of the Electoral Code, which might be an obstacle for the organization of trustful elections.

“A citizen is not able to understand this complex legislation, and legal scholars have said that it is a violation of the principles of law,” Styopa Safaryan said, adding that the second important factor is the will of the authorities to hold free and fair elections. “The authorities do not have a will of holding free and fair elections because there are already many alarms about electoral bribery and attempts to bribe voters,” Styopa Safaryan said.

Aram Manukyan said that the Electoral Code does not meet the requirements of a normal electoral process.  

“This law is disposable, it will not be used for the next elections because it isn’t simply applicable. There is no such experience in the world, 8 people should account the votes of approximately 90 candidates and 9 parties within 8 hours, this is simply not possible and the counting process of the elections will fail,”Aram Manukyan expressed confidence, but also stressed that the electoral code could have a positive impact as well, the participants of the upcoming elections will be less by half a million, as a result of the mandatory publication of voter lists.  

“These lists would not include the “voters” that were not in Armenia but someone voted instead of them,” Aram Manukyan said. 

Arayik Harutyunyan is not optimistic about the quality of the upcoming elections either.

“Whatever electoral code the government has, the elections will be falsified if they don’t have the will to hold elections according to the law. There have already been signals that the elections will be falsified,” Arayik Harutyunyan said while agreeing that the Electoral Code is complex and additional efforts should be made to explain to the public all the parts of the Code that relate to voters. 

Bribes, deformed charity, assistance. How to fight against electoral bribery? 

Lernik Aleksanyan, responding to accusations of abuses committed by the government before the elections, said:

“No one denies that the financial resources help in the election. It is very difficult to draw a line and say that this is a charity, this is bribery. Generally, people help before the elections, asphalt the streets of villages and so on. If a person is supported, this man is naturally inclined to vote for the supporters during these elections,” the Republican representative said.

Artak Sargsyan is convinced that in the case of 30-40 percent of poverty in the country, a large part of the population is vulnerable in terms of bribes.

“A poor man, who has a daily problem of food and there is a bribe giver, the risk is extremely high,” Artak Sargsyan said.

The speaker said that the solution is to improve the socio-economic situation. “If we want to fundamentally solve the problem of bribery, we need to solve the social problems, the issue of the formation of the middle class; we should have an independent citizen. The citizen's independence has two aspects, social and educational, do we have such a conscious citizen who will not be tempted in such conditions?” 

Stepan Safaryan shared the opinion adding: “In poor countries, the number one partner of the government and their first voter is a poor person. Such government will never be interested in creating a middle class, free society with full pockets and voters, for such a voter requires higher values, it sets high ethical standards among the political parties and candidates. Yes, such a voter becomes a risk for authorities.”

Aram Manukyan stressed the importance of active citizens, as a guarantee of quality elections. In his opinion, citizens should not be disappointed, they should be encouraged in order free citizens go and vote, as they contribute to the formation of the election.

“The more a citizen is bound, miserable and under threat, the less legitimate the elections are. We have to do everything to show citizens their importance and need,” Aram Manukyan said.

Arayik Harutyunyan and Lernik Aleksanyan also shared this opinion.

To watch the video, follow the link.  

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”

To contact the author please send an email to arshaluismghdesyan@pjc.am.

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