Better Policies. Better Future.

REPORT: IYC’s monitoring mission of the local government elections in Kentron, Nor-Nork, Nork-Marash, Avan, Davitashen and Shengavit communities of Yerevan

IYC’s monitors observed the local government elections in 206 precincts on September 28.

As a result of monitoring the first phase of local government elections in some communities of Yerevan on September 7 the IYC published its findings concerning the violations and shortcomings of the electoral processes such as illegal voting and intimidation. There were even frustrating cases such as tension and violence in some precincts. Despite the fact that the IYC has condemned the repressive methods of solving the electoral disputes and petitioned the parties involved in electoral processes to keep the process of elections in the framework of legality and act in an environment of tolerance, there were cases of illegal voting and violence during these local government elections as well.

IYC is specifically concerned of such cases during the local government elections in Kentron community. In some polling stations “neighborhood authorities” have actively interfered with the electoral processes and PEC representatives, who did not prevent those violations either due to ignorance of the law or on purpose.

It is worth mentioning that the voter turnout was quite low and they were not active, which means that they were not interested in those two candidates.

The IYC has observed the following violations during the local government elections:

Illegal voting

· There was a case of open voting in #10/03 precinct of Nork-Marash. The commission members noticed the violation but failed to prevent it.

· Ballot stuffing was observed in Kentron community as presented below:

- In #10/03 precinct of Kentron community the loyalists of candidate Gagik Beglaryan stuffed ballots, which caused a conflict and scuffle with proxies and PEC members. The proxies demanded that the commission register the violation in the protocol but the PEC head failed to do so.

- There were cases of ballot stuffing in #10/11, 10/53 and 10/12 precincts.

- In #10/51 Gagik Beglaryan’s loyalists stuffed ballots. The head of this commission was there and ignored that violation.

- In #10/53 precinct a young man and a woman brought marked ballots with them in order to stuff. Before they would cast those ballots into the ballot box the PEC chair approached them to check who they had voted for. When they found out that among the ballots marked for Beglaryan there were also ballots marked for Zurabyan they made a noise and conflict in the precinct. The representative of the Heritage party in the PEC realized that all their efforts were useless and decided to boycot and left the precinct without participating in the vote count. Ararat Zurabyan’s proxy left the precinct as well.

There have been such violations in other precincts as well. In consideration of the hard situation our organization does not believe that boycotting the work of the electoral commission on part of PEC members or proxies and leaving polling stations is the best way to express their opinion about the elections.

· In a fixed-run taxi (#33) parked not far from the student dorms of 2nd Massive of Nor-Nork of Yerevan some people cut deals with voters. Specifically, on the voting day citizens approached that vehicle, showed their passports and took some white papers and directly went to the nearest #2/18 precinct.

· In #2/2 precinct of Nor-Nork community of Yerevan (at 6 p.m.) the Legal State party representative in the PEC Frida Martirosyan discovered and prevented cases of illegal voting (voting instead of other people). When three citizens were going to cast their ballots into the ballot box it turned out that those voters were registered in another district, which means that they had signed and were going to vote instead of other people. This violation was registered in the protocol.

· The voting process proceeded in a tense environment in #10/05 precinct. There were even conflicts risen between proxies and PEC members. In this precinct the PEC gave a ballot to a voter without a passport and based on a photocopy of the voter’s passport, which is a violation of Clause 3 of Article 55 of the Electoral Code of RA.

In the same precinct (#10/05) the PEC members allowed a group of people to vote without any documents and they made a separate voter list for them.

· In #10/19 precinct a citizen argued that he was the only person registered at his address at Teryan 19, apt. 8 and there were other people registered at the same address in the voter lists.

· In #10/05 precinct some voters found signatures next to the names of people that they know are not in the country.

· Resident of Vardanants St. 10 building Gevorg Margaryan found anther signature next to his name when he went to his precinct to vote.

· In #10/07 precinct there was a conflict and scuffle between Ararat Zurabyan’s proxies and PEC members when a voter asked a PEC member to show the name of his candidate on the ballot. The conflict, which was risen in the presence of police officers and media representatives, was stopped only after new group of police security officers arrived at the precinct.

· Many cases of open voting and multiple voting were observed in #10/54 precinct.

· Cases of double and multiple voting were observed in #10/51 precinct.

· In precinct 10/52 a proxy alleged that the PEC chair had put a stack of ballots into his pocket, after which they invited people from the CEC and prosecutor’s office. Those people arrived after an hour delay and did not find anything with the PEC chair. As a result of it there was a conflict and scuffle in the polling station.

· In precinct 10/19 (at 1:30 p.m.) two people voted at the same voting screen at a time. The monitor said that it was against the law and the PEC chairman responded that they were a married couple. Even if they are a couple it is still violation of the law.

Violations of the electoral procedure

· In #2/2, 2/1, 2/3, 2/19, 2/4 and 2/38 precincts of Nor-Nork community despite the requirement of Clause 3 of Article 53 of the Electoral Code the PEC member in charge of the ballot box and envelope stamping was not provided with the addresses of the voters included in the voter list. Thus, the PEC members could not check whether the addresses recited by the voters were true or not. Even the PEC members did not know about this law requirement.

· In #10/07 precinct the PEC made a break and the vote count started after an hour delay.

· The vote counting process was interrupted in #10/48 and 10/38 precincts.

· In #10/44 precinct two people introduced themselves as the head of the PEC. Despite the fact that the elected PEC head was Armen Harutyunyan, another person named Arman Tchagharyan was controlling the situation at the precinct. As a matter of fact this person was the secretary of PEC #10/44 and he publicly announced that he wanted to see David Copperfield’s tricks after closing the precinct at 8p.m., when he allegedly said that the results would be changed.

Influence on voters’ free will

· The IYC monitors have observed that in many precincts of Nor-Nork community different people entered the polling stations to escort people who allegedly were not able to vote. This was widespread in many precincts of the mentioned community and was done for the purpose of campaigning among voters and controlling their votes. After the first part of the voting day the voter turnout became very active when people were bussed to polling stations around 5-7 p.m. (e.g. precinct #2/41). Other unauthorized people were escorting those voters in the polling station and controlling their votes to the extent of marking the ballots instead of them.

· Some of the #10/48 PEC members openly instructed voters who to vote for. The same PEC failed to carry out their duties in a duly manner, often there was chaos in the precinct, and the vote count proceeded with procedural violations as well.

· Not far from the #10/48 precinct a group of people was campaigning among voters on their way to the precinct.

· In the #10/49 precinct some “neighborhood authorities” interfered in the process of elections, campaigned near the precincts, escorted voters to the precinct and voter screens and controlled their vote.

· Unauthorized people were controlling the votes in the #10/54 polling station as well, where there was chaos and the situation was out of control.

Abuse of proxy and monitor rights

· In the #10/11 and 10/12 precincts proxies and monitors were not allowed to freely move inside the precinct and monitor the voting process.

·In precinct #10/14 the PEC chair refused to sign the copy of the final protocol to be handed to the IYC’s monitor. The latter also said that he was the boss there and that he could do anything he wanted and made arbitrary decisions.

In the #10/38 precinct the PEC chair did not allow the proxies to video record the vote count.

·In Precinct #10/51 the proxies tried to prevent ballot stuffing but the PEC chair got angry with them and threatened to make them leave the precinct and said that he wouldn’t let them monitor the vote count process.

·In precinct #10/51 the PEC members were influencing on the IYC monitor by checking his report and creating artificial difficulties for him.

·In precinct #10/44 the PEC did not let the proxies and monitors approach them and observe their activities by saying that they are interrupting their work.

·In precinct #10/21 the proxies and monitors tried to monitor the voter lists and observe the ballot box but the PEC told them that they were interfering with their work and did not let them observe and observe the IDs of voters.

Inconveniences of polling stations

· In the #2/2, 2/1, 2/3, 2/19, 2/4, 2/24, 2/16, 2/17, 2/8, 2/45 polling stations of Nor-Nork community and the #10/16, 10/21 polling stations of Kentron community the voting screens were furnished in a manner that one could see the results of votes. It is a violation of Article 48/5 of the Electoral Code. Even though it was possible to furnish the voting screen in a manner to provide voting secrecy those voting screens were not furnished in a duly manner and there were no ribbon barriers used.

September 30, 2008

It’s Your Choice is a nonpartisan NGO and the largest domestic election monitor in Armenia with 4,000 volunteers, and offices and chapters in all 10 marzes and communities of Yerevan. IYC’s mission is to promote transparent elections and democratic processes in Armenia; establish true self-governance and accountability within the government; encourage citizen participation in community governance; and provide objective, reliable and timely information to Armenian voters about electoral processes.

Since 1999 IYC has been involved in monitoring activities in different levels of elections. IYC has monitored two parliamentary, two presidential elections in 2003 and 2008, three local government elections, the presidential elections of 2003 and the Constitutional referendum of November 27, 2005. After the elections IYC made reports and developed recommendations to the RA “Electoral Code”.