on the Drafting of the New Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia
(prepared based on the recommendations of the participants of February 29 public discussion organized by “Partnership for Open Society” Initiative)
02 March, 2016
Taking into consideration that genuine reform of the electoral system is crucial for the democratic development of the Republic of Armenia;
In view of the violations and fraud committed in elections over the last 21 years and as recently as during the 2015 referendum;
Comprehending the daunting challenges faced by our country and society; and
In light of the forthcoming elections;
We, a number of representatives of civil society, deem it necessary to present to the public and the authorities our concerns and recommendations related to the drafting and substance of the new Electoral Code.
- It is vital to safeguard the transparency of the drafting of the new Electoral Code and the engagement of all interested civil society stakeholders and political parties. We believe that the complete transparency and participatory nature of these efforts are a condition sine qua non for genuine reform. Unfortunately, the reality is different; at the public discussion of February 29 no representative from the parliamentary majority of the Republican Party and the government took part.
- Introducing the following tools and solutions in the new Electoral Code is viewed inevitable for securing integrity and transparency of the electoral system, accountability of the process and opportunity to redress violated electoral rights should such violations occur:
i. No substantive progress in securing integrity of the electoral process and increasing trust towards the institute of democratic elections among Armenian people is possible unless the state assumes a positive obligation to publish the list of citizens who voted. Introduction of E-voting alone, which is currently considered by the authorities, is not going to address violations, specifically that of ballot staffing, which was routinely used at the last referendum and past elections. Hence, publication of the list of voters that voted is the most essential safeguard for the prevention of mass vote rigging. The Electoral Code shall provide for posting of segregated lists of voters residing and not-residing in Armenia at the time of voting. Such lists shall be available and posted for each polling station ahead of the election. Introduced without such safeguard, the e-voting would become a controversial tool, as it might be ineffective and counterproductive in terms of wasting valuable resources.
ii. The capacity for public oversight shall be extended in a number of ways to secure accountability of the vote and increase public trust in the process. First, the test-based accreditation of observers should be eliminated so as to preclude differentiated treatment of local and foreign observers, on the one hand, and to exclude undue restriction of observer rights, on the other. Furthermore, the authority of observation missions and observers should be broadened, allowing them to act as representatives of public interests who will have the right to appeal the voting results based on the reported violations.
iii. As a positive obligation, the State should be required to install multiple video cameras (at least 5) in each polling station, with proper video-recording and live online broadcasting capacity. State authorities should also assume the obligation to archive such recordings and to store them as non-classified information. The Code shall provide for admissibility of the footage as court evidence in case of alleged violations.
The above list of recommendations is not exhaustive. There are means and methods to further improve the process and make free and fair elections attainable (the list is attached). However, these are the ones that we consider paramount for curbing sustainable abuse of integrity of vote in national and local elections and referenda.
Hereby we reinstate our willingness to discuss these and related recommendations and to engage in the participatory drafting of the new Electoral Code.
Statement was signed by more than 35 NGOs
Statement is open to signature
i. The Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia should be amended to safeguard free formation, expression, and protection of expression of the voters’ will, including by means of prescribing discouraging and adequate sanctions for the perpetrators of electoral fraud. Specifically, waiver of criminal liability for accepting an electoral bribe when a person voluntarily reports it to the authorities will make reporting of crime, and hence its investigation and redress of rights more attainable.
ii. The law should acknowledge substantial deviations from the internationally accepted statistical pattern of fair elections as grounds for reasonable doubt in fairness of the vote and mandate further investigation into fraud, stipulating recount in all such precincts where normal Gaussian distribution is distorted and ahs tails indicating ballot stuffing.
iii. As a positive obligation, the State should be required to ensure not only de jure, but also de facto gender equality between the elected candidates with a view to securing women’s fully-fledged participation and representation in the legislative power. The extant 20% quota prescribed by Article 108 of the Electoral Code does not meet the UN standards of having at least 30-40 percent representation of each sex in order to safeguard gender equality.
iv. The Electoral Code should contain provisions precluding any use, including for the benefit of any candidate, of state and municipal administrative resources (workforce, immovable or movable property, budgets, off-budgets, communication means, official positions, expendable supplies, work time, and the like). Violations of those provisions should trigger clear, and measurable sanctions instead of currently applied inadequate dismissive measures.
v. The Electoral Code and the relevant laws should prescribe clear mechanisms and the obligation of the Central Electoral Commission and the tax authorities to check the credibility of campaign financing sources and declarations filed by parties and candidates.
vi. The deadlines for possible electoral violation appeals, recounting, and related activities should be prescribed in such a way as to ensure reasonableness and effectiveness.
vii. Protection of voting rights in the army should be fundamentally revised with a view to precluding one or several servicemen or commanders to influence, through their actions or inaction, the free expression of the voters’ will, and to grant all candidates equal opportunities to represent themselves and their programs to servicemen. Servicemen should be free to exercise or not to exercise their voting right. All of this should be subject to genuine and effective public oversight.
viii. The law should prohibit the membership in electoral commissions of teachers and faculty working in the state and municipal education system: in this manner, they will not be involved in potential electoral crimes and fraud, and the future generation will be spared the risk of being taught by potential fraudsters. This cannot be viewed as limitation of the rights of education community to participate in public life, as it is presented currently by officials, but rather this measure protects them from becoming victims of threats and manipulation.
ix. To ensure equal conditions for the participants at elections, the legislation should specify timing for election campaign at broadcast media. Particularly, the legislation should define the period (no less than three months) for use of airtime for campaigning. Political campaigning outside of this period should be prohibited. The Electoral Code and the Law on Television and Radio should distinguish between campaigning and editorial coverage. The Law should make mandatory TV debates on Public Television and stipulate mandatory participation in such debates between political parties.
x. The Law should ensure mechanisms for inking fingers, or allow voters’ registration through a fingerprint model that is based on centralized database.
xi. The Law should guarantee equal opportunities for people with disabilities to exercise their political rights. Ensure that voting procedures, facilities, and materials are fully accessible and easy to understand and use. The Law should protect the right to secrecy of vote for persons with disabilities during elections and referendums, while allowing them to request assistance during voting of any person of their choice.
xii. As a primary point, increase state funding of political parties at least for 10 times applying the regression principle. Meantime, compensation should be provided to political parties that campaigned and were elected in the amount of 50% of their total costs.
 UN, “The Worlds’ Women 2010: Trends and Statistics”, Chapter 5: Power and Decision Making, page 116 // http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/Worldswomen/WW2010%20Report_by%20chapter(pdf)/Power%20and%20decision%20making.pdf
The EU High Representative Federica Mogherini visited Armenia on 1 March 2016 and held talks with political leaders and representatives of civil society. She began her visit to the country with a meeting with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and President Serzh Sargsyan. The new phase of EU-Armenia relations was the focus of Mogherini’s first visit to Yerevan in the capacity of the EU High Representative, reports the press service of the European Union External Action Service (EEAS).
Last December both sides agreed to start negotiating on a new EU-Armenia agreement. During her visit to Yerevan, Mogherini underlined her hopes that the new agreement will be put in place as soon as possible, states the EEAS.
According to the EU’s Diplomatic service, the bilateral relations between the two have also been complemented by the Eastern Partnership policy towards Armenia as one of the six EU eastern neighbours. The EU is not just a partner, but also an investor in Armenia – helping to train over 4,000 farmers and 930 small enterprises. It helped build over 170 km of road and improve wastewater treatment, reports EEAS.
As already reported by the EU Neighbourhood Info Centre, the EU High Representative is on her tour of the Eastern Partnership countries that started at the end of last year with visits to Ukraine and Georgia. The visit to Armenia takes place right after Azerbaijan where Mogherini was on 29 February 2016. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
Remarks by Federica Mogherini at the joint press conference with Edward Nalbandian, Foreign Minister of Armenia
Interview with Federica Mogherini by MediaMax information agency