Armenia’s Recent Presidential Elections

There is always more than one side to every story… But this story merely has one side to comprehend. Let’s face it; Armenia (like most ex-Soviet countries) has been facing a political crisis ever since the fall of the USSR. Armenia has witnessed catastrophic electoral fraud in municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections for over a decade, and quite frankly, this is unfortunately also the case today.

Officially, the incumbent Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan claimed victory in the presidential elections of 2013, with a majority of 59 percent of the vote. Raffi Hovannisian, Sargsyan’s main opponent, finished second with roughly 37 percent of the vote. Hovannisian claimed victories in the key towns of Gyumri and Vanadzor, reflecting the disillusionment and lack of hope our fellow Armenians have for the status quo. It has been absolutely heart-breaking reading the reports of independent journalists regarding what happened during the voting period. The past has shown that in Armenia wealth has determined political power, and nothing has changed in 2013; 20,000AMD bribes, men in black swarming ballot stations and harassing voters, and contracted thugs threatening to kill journalists recording these examples of fraud. ‘Carousel voting’ has also become sophisticated in Armenia, with individuals somehow frequenting several voting stations in a single day, highlighting the lack of security and admin given to the electoral process. This list goes on; according to the OSCE, there is a clear trend between voter turnout and polling results. In one village with 600 eligible voters, there was an extraordinary 100 percent turnout, all of which voted for the incumbent. This example is one of many nationwide instances of outright electoral fraud, all of which have been overlooked by the Constitutional Court – the highest judicial body in Armenia and the apparent defender of liberty. Ironic.

Hovannisian demanded the president to reject the result of the election and hold a new one between the two, dissolve the National Assembly and hold new parliamentary elections on a proportional representation electoral system. As expected, Sargsyan dismissed the demands and patronisingly suggested that Hovannisian should concentrate on running for the upcoming municipal elections in Yerevan. His reason? The demands were unconstitutional. This kind of response makes my blood boil, as it reflects the lack of democratic progress in Armenia. The constitution must reform radically and be able to facilitate such outcomes in elections, especially given the dire circumstances; official records state 500,000 individuals voted for Raffi but the real number is unknown, which suggests that there is really no legitimate president in office. Therefore the constitution needs to have a mechanism to ensure that there is a peaceful way to resolve the political crisis, or it will face some form of revolution from the relentless thousands gathering in Republic Square.

— Emin Moskofian

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