Nikol Pashinyan's Civic Contract Party has won a landslide victory in Armenia's parliamentary election. Pashinyan once more confounded his political rivals securing 53.92% of the votes cast after an acrimonious and bitterly fought election.
This live blog is now closed
A comment by commonspace.eu's Political Editor as we end our live reporting
commonspace.eu's political editor has said in a comment that an election with a result that gives one party a clear mandate to govern, is something which at times in the past few weeks appeared to be impossible given the difficult and polarised political situation that emerged in Armenia following the Autumn war:
"Nikol Pashinyan has once more outsmarted his many opponents, and managed to keep the loyalty and support of the people of Armenia. His party will have a constitutional majority, and that gives him a lot of opportunities to push forward his reform agenda, but obviously also has risks.
"The election has also been positively assessed by international observers, and any claims to delegitimise them are unlikely to have much resonance.
"The tasks ahead for the next Armenian government are enormous, but now the Armenian people have spoken, and their views need to be taken into account. This notwithstanding, Pashinyan would do well to approach his new term in government with a sense of modesty, taking into account that he needs to be the leader of all Armenians. Armenia needs to enter a period of political healing, and efforts need to be put into building a better future."
With this, we end our live reporting.
Thank you to our contributors in Baku, Brussels, The Hague, Tbilisi and Yerevan for their insights and contributions, and to all those that joined us for the 20 June 2021 Armenian parliamentary elections.
A joint press conference by the OSCE ODIHR, the OSCE PA, and PACE says elections were positive and well-managed
The major international observers of the Armenian parliamentary elections have given positive reports on the conduct of the democratic process.
In a joint press conference this afternoon, Kari Henriksen, Head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) delegation, said that despite the pandemic, the 20 June 2021 elections “were competitive and generally well managed with a short time frame”. That said, she noted that the elections were “characterised by intense polarisation and marred by increasingly inflammatory rhetoric among key contestants.” She noted that the legal framework was generally comprehensive, but said that the fact amendments were adopted close to election made some things less clear.
She criticised the sidelining of women in the process and the lack of accessibility at polling stations for those with disabilities.
Georgios Katrougalos, Head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation, said that there was a respect of democratic and constitutional order in a polarised political climate. He added that the elections should considered as “given” and that “whoever does not win at this election has a chance at the next elections.”
Eoghan Murphy, Head of the ODIHR election observation mission stated that “at no time were [they] obstructed from doing [their] observation work by any of the state or local authorities”. Giving ODIHR’s assessment, he said they had observed that “candidates could campaign freely throughout the election process, fundamental rights and freedoms were generally respected and voters were provided with a broad range of options leading to a competitive election”. Like Henriksen, he expressed some concern that the late adoption of amnendments to legal code did create some legal uncertainty as well as expressing concern for the sidelining of women.
In response to questions from journalists on electoral violations, the mission official said that they first need to see the substance of these complaints and correspond with the relevant state authorities, who have the right to take action based on these violations. With regards to breaches of secrecy of the ballots, the panel said they observed it in one instance, but did not intervene. In general, they said that the overall electoral institutions have worked.
The final report on the elections by the joint OSCE-ODIHR, OSCE PA and PACE will be ready in a few months’ time.
An immediate Statement of preliminary findings and conclusions is available here.
Some reactions from the losing parties
Following the results of the Armenian elections, we have been monitoring the statements of all the involved political parties and their representatives. While most of the unsuccessful parties are yet to make official statements, a few individuals have used their social media platforms to thank their followers for casting their votes for them.
Arman Babajanyan, leader of the Shirinyan-Babajanyan Alliance of Democrats, in a personal message on facebook, said: “For me personally, yesterday's election of the National Assembly is not the end, but the beginning.” He asserted that the elections were held democratically, and freedom of voting was ensured, following with, “Therefore, any attempt to revise the result with post-election developments will be an encroachment on Armenia's stability, the imperative of state recovery, public solidarity, in other words, it will be an internal attack on Armenia.”
In a statement, the Republic Party expressed its deep gratitude to those who trusted them and gave them their vote: “We value your trust and feel committed to you […] The Republic congratulates the winning team and wishes them success in these crucial difficult times for the Republic of Armenia.”
Norayr Norikyan, leader of Fair Armenia, also posted on his facebook account, expressing his gratitude to all people who voted for Fair Armenia and wishing the best to the Armenian people in the future. He noted that an official statement of the party will be published later this evening.
Some were less positive about the results and what they will bring for the future of the country.
In a facebook post, European Party of Armenia (EPA) stated, "[EPA expresses its] satisfaction in regard to the elections as a part of the ongoing democratic process in Armenia. On the other hand, EPA claims the elections to be not free and not fair, considering unequal conditions of participation, the limitation of free speech due to the monopolistic and biased position of the state media, and oligarchic information resources. Besides, the administrative and financial pressure and bribery were common and obvious before and during the election process. As a result, the leaders of all "old" authorities are presented in a "new" Armenian parliament to find immunity from their crimes and political mistakes." The statement excluded co-operation with "past and present marionette political figures", and said that "the EU and NATO membership remains the single guarantee for the peaceful, democratic, safe and sovereign development of our state."
Ara Zohrabyan, leader of the Awakening National Christian Party, expressed doubt on the result, stating that it is unclear how the Civil Contract could gain 680,000 votes. He stated that the people have chosen “aggression, hostility and defeat”, and claimed that the 2018 elections brought the 2020 Karabakh war, and the 2021 choice will bring “humiliation and losses”.
In an unofficial statement, MP in the last National Assembly for Bright Armenia, Srbuhi Grigoryan told News.am that her party “will take a break, to understand what will happen”. Bright Armenia pushed for solidarity in this election, but the party had a low outcome, gaining only 1.22% of votes. Bright Armenia will release an official statement in the evening.
Still questions from opposition and civil society over recorded violations.
From Tbilisi, Arnold Stepanian, Chairman of the Public Movement Multinational Georgia, sent us this comment:
"Despite the large gap in the number of votes gained between the competitors, there are questions on the part of the opposition and civil society caused by the recorded violations. The voting outcomes at a number of precincts are also in doubt. Although these are not the best elections in the history of Armenia, one must remember that they were extraordinary, and were held in tough times in terms of the internal and external political situation. This is not the easiest period for the country. Armenia faces serious challenges that can radically change the future of the country.
"In this context, effective interaction between the authorities and the opposition is extremely important."
Press conference by international observers
International election observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Yerevan hold a press conference to present their findings following the 20 June early parliamentary elections in Armenia.
A comment from Alexander Petrosyan
Ahead of the OSCE press conference just coming up, we have received this comment from Alexander Petrosyan from his base in Brussels:
"According to the Central Electoral Commission, Pashinyan's Civil Contract has gained around 54% of the votes, while Kocharyan's 'Armenia Alliance' gets 21%. Given the fact that the law allows the third party/bloc, which has gained the most votes, to enter the Parliament, 'I have honor' of Vanetsyan and Sargsyan, manages to secure its place. Overall, the elections faced many frauds and violations, with the involvement of both parties. It seems that Pashinyan's party has adopted the same traits of election falsification as his old opponents: administrative and media resources, abuse of power."
Russia positively assesses the Armenian elections
Russian officials have positively spoken out about the results of the parliamentary elections.
The Kremlin's presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov, congratulated the Armenian people on their choice, referring to the information released by the Central Election Commission of Armenia. The Russian leadership expects that the Armenian republic will be able to enter the trajectory of sustainable development and cope with difficulties, peskov Peskov said.
Additionally, the first deputy chairman of the international affairs committee of the Federation Council, Vladimir Jabbarov, reminded that “Russia is Armenia’s strategic partner”, as well as a “reliable and loyal friend, the closest friend to Armenia”.
Like Jabarov, Russian MP Viktor Vodolatsky wants to avoid provoking people to the streets and clashes. He advises the parties which lost the elections to sit around a table to negotiate for the benefit of Armenia.
Armenian Central Electoral Commission confirms results
The head of the Armenian Central Electoral Commission, Tigran Mukuchyan, has confirmed the results of the 20 June 2021 parliamentary elections, meaning that Armenia’s caretaker prime minister and leader of the Civil Contract party, Nikol Pashinyan, has secured enough votes (53.92%) to form a government:
"We have now published the data, or what percentage from the total of the votes each party got. We then later use another plan to determine who will get how many mandates."
In Armenian electoral law, there must be a third political force in parliament; however, only two political entities managed to pass the 5% (parties) or 7% (blocs) threshold to enter. Mukuchyan has now explained who will gain seats in the parliament as the third electoral force:
"The third force making it to parliament is the one that received more votes [than others but did not clear the threshold]."
The third place will thus go to the I Have Honor alliance.
The Armenian results mean the trilateral post-war agreements stand
Benjamin Poghosyan, a regular contributor to commonspace.eu, has sent us this update from Yerevan:
"In the regional context, Pashinyan's victory means Armenia will continue implementing all written and oral agreements reached with Russia and Azerbaijan after the end of the 2020 Karabakh war. These developments align with Russian strategic interests in the region as they will allow unhindered implementation of Russia–Turkey agreements for the future regional balance of power in the South Caucasus. Most probably, communications will be opened between Armenia and Azerbaijan. President Aliyev will talk about the launch of corridors, while the prime minister, Pashinyan, will speak about highways and railways, but this war of terms will not change the essence. Armenia and Azerbaijan will be transformed into the trade and transportation hubs for Russia to reach Turkey and Iran."
Read his full comments here.
In Azerbaijan, surprise at election results brings optimism for peace in the region
With the results out, Dr Vasif Huseynov – a Senior Advisor at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center) – gives commonspace.eu some insight on people's thoughts in Baku:
"The results of Armenia's snap parliamentary elections were a surprise for most observers in the region, including Azerbaijanis. As opposed to the expectations, the elections took place in a peaceful environment and ended with a landslide victory of the ruling party led by Nikol Pashinyan and the loss of revanchist political groups. This outcome has been interpreted by Azerbaijanis as the approval of the post-war peace and reconciliation efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan by the Armenian people. Along with that, the emerging chance for the establishment of a stable political environment in Armenia is another factor which is seen by Azerbaijanis as conducive to regional peace and stability. This all has caused some optimism concerning the future of the region."
CIS election observers positively assess election process
Election observers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have praised the conduct of the electoral process in Armenia.
Ilkhom Nematov, the head of the CIS observation mission, said the mission visited about 700 polling stations in Yerevan and regions on election day (20 June). He has confirmed that the mission considers the early elections of the Armenian National Assembly to have been held in accordance with the Armenian Constitution and Electoral Code, and were open and constructive.
Another member of the observer mission, Kanybek Imanaliev, noted that one drawback was that in some polling stations, there was not a single observer from any of the 25 political forces participating in the elections.
photo: Ilkhom Nematov, head of the CIS observation mission in Armenia
Armenia alliance reacts to preliminary elections results
The Armenia Alliance bloc led by former president Robert Kocharyan issued a statement disputing the results of the elections stating that they are “highly controversial and do not inspire confidence”.
The statement says:
“The results are in conflict with various manifestations of public life that we have witnessed over the past eight months, with the results of public opinion polls, including the ones conducted by international organizations and finally, with simple common sense. The large campaign rallies of the opposition, the small number of people attending the gatherings organized by the ruling power and the crisis of confidence signaled a completely different mood in the country. One of the most serious reasons for the lack of confidence/trust were the hundreds of calls coming from different polling stations on election day about the systemic, pre-planned falsification of election results.
"Considering the above-mentioned, the Armenia Alliance prioritizes the in-depth and substantiated investigation into all of the registered and alleged violations, which they will start doing immediately. As long as all the problematic issues have not received comprehensive explanations and the suspicions have not been dispelled, the Armenia Alliance will not accept the election results.”
The Armenia Alliance said that it would wait until all electoral violations are investigated.
Preliminary results show a Civil Contract victory
We are pleased to start again our live blog with the preliminary results provided by the Armenian Central Electoral Commission. The results show Civil Contract, led by Nikol Pashinyan, to have won with 53.92% of the vote, with the second president Robert Kocharyan's Armenia Alliance taking 21.04% and the party led by Artur Vanetsyan and supported by the third president, Serzh Sargsyan, taking 5.23%. No other parties qualified for parliament.
Please see here the full preliminary results:
- Fair Armenia party – 3922 votes or 0.31%
- Armenian National Congress party – 19,690 votes or 1.54%
- Civil Contract party – 687,414 or 53.92%
- Zartonk national Christian party – 4623 votes or 0.36%
- Liberty party – 1844 votes or 0.14%
- “I Have the Honor” alliance – 66,647 votes or 5.23%
- United Homeland party – 957 votes or 0.08%
- Pan-Armenian National Statehood party – 803 votes or 0.06%
- Bright Armenia party – 15,571 votes or 1.22%
- “Our Home Is Armenia” party – 12,164 votes or 0.95%
- Republic party – 38,730 votes or 3.04%
- “Hayots Hayrenik” party – 13,119 votes or 1.03%
- Free Fatherland bloc – 4136 votes or 0.32%
- Prosperous Armenia party – 50,419 votes or 3.95%
- Democratic Party of Armenia – 5021 votes or 0.39%
- 5165 National Conservative Movement party – 15,546 votes or 1.22%
- Citizen’s Decision Social-Democratic party – 3773 votes or 0.3%
- Shirinyan-Babajanyan Alliance of Democrats – 19,145 votes or 1.5%
- National Agenda party – 721 votes or 0.06%
- Verelk party – 1259 votes or 0.1%
- Liberal party – 14,935 votes or 1.17%
- European Party of Armenia – 2786 votes or 0.22%
- “Armenia” bloc – 268,300 votes or 21.04%
- National-Democratic Axis party – 18,773 votes or 1.47%
- Sovereign Armenia party – 3561 votes or 0.28%
Final voter turnout – 49.4% of eligible
The Armenian Central Elections Commission (CEC) has provisionally announced that 1,281,174 votes were cast in today’s elections, constituting 49.4% of those eligible. This is slightly more than the 1,260,840 (48.62%) of votes in the 2018 parliamentary election.
A more thorough breakdown is available here on the CEC website.
Counting in progress
The counting process is now taking place. This picture is from constituency 2, polling station 10 in Yerevan.
Polling closes: the counting process starts, and many hope a re-run will not be necessary in four weeks’ time
Reflecting on today’s vote, commonspace.eu's political editor wrote:
The voting has closed. The Armenian people have voted, and the election process appeared to be reasonably well organised and transparent. Now the counting process starts, and often it is here that problems are encountered. These elections, however, may not be conclusive. If no party wins an outright majority of more than fifty per cent, then a process of coalition building will have to start. If within six days of the publication of the official results a coalition is not formed, the election will have to be re-run in four weeks’ time with only the two largest parties on the ballot paper. Many Armenians hope to be spared this uncertainty. The next few hours will tell us what will happen. In the meantime, Armenia’s neighbours are also watching the process. What happens in this election may define the future of peace in the region.
At 20.00 (Yeveran), the polls officially close in the 20 June 2021, Armenian early parliamentary elections.
Elections largely peaceful, and many hope things stay that way
Polling in Armenia's early parliamentary elections closes in less than an hour's time. Despite some isolated incidents, the day has passed largely peacefully. Many hope things stay that way.
Writing from Tbilisi, Arnold Stepanian, Chairman of the Public Movement Multinational Georgia said that the Armenians of Georgia share the common view that whatever the choice of the Armenian citizens is, the results must be accepted by all political forces. Civil resistance caused by political polarization must not escalate into street resistance! Despite the diametrically opposed positions of the current government and the opposition, the wisdom of the leaders of the main political actors should play a role in ensuring that the process remains peaceful.
Azerbaijanis closely watch Armenia's elections
The election is being watched by Armenia's neighbours and nowhere more so than Azerbaijan. From Baku, Dr Vasif Huseynov – a Senior Advisor at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center) – has given commonspace.eu some insight on what Azerbaijanis are thinking as they follow the Armenian elections:
"Some updates on election day have been read in the Azerbaijani segment of social media as Robert Kocharyan's potential win in the snap parliamentary elections. He is widely seen in Azerbaijan as a revanchist political figure and is considered a threat to regional peace and stability. These concerns have been reinforced by Kocharyan's pre-election narrative and his election campaign, which on its last day on 18 June, staged an anti-Turkic song glorifying the assassination of a Turkish politician by an Armenian."
Voting at 38.17% by 17.00 (Yerevan)
We now have the third update on voter turn-out in today's Armenian parliamentary elections. At 17.00 (Yerevan), the number of votes cast was 989,972, amounting to 38.17% of those eligible. These figures were released by the Armenian Central Elections Commission.
This announcement means that for the first time today, voter turnout is behind what it was in the last elections of 2018, where 1,025,002 voters – or 39.54% of the total number of voters – had voted at around the same time.
Track the numbers here.
CIS Election Observers report "no serious flaws or violations"
Russia's TASS news agency reports that observers from the mission of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have registered no serious violations during the voting at today's early Armenian parliamentary elections. The mission's co-ordinator, Igor Komarovsky, told TASS:
"[The electoral process] is proceeding quite calmly. Our mission has reported no serious flaws or violations."
France’s stance on the Armenian parliamentary elections
One country which traditionally has close relations with Armenia is France, where a large diaspora population also lives. Camille Victor has been monitoring French media to look at how they have been reporting the elections.
France seems to have a particular interest in the Armenian elections, with numerous national newspapers and media outlets, such as Le Monde, Le Figaro and France 24, amongst others, closely following the elections. Although 25 parties and blocs are competing for votes, French news media almost systematically concentrates its attention on the two main contenders, Nikol Pashinyan and Robert Kocharyan, and their respective parties.
Many reports have undertones of implicit sympathy for Pashinyan’s more “democratic” governance style, at the expense of the “authoritarian” and “corrupt” characteristics of Kocharyan’s leadership.
A reporter of France 24 in Yerevan today (20 June) said Pashinyan “embodies the democratic aspirations of the country”, contrasting with Kocharyan’s description as a “stronger” man, yet “associated with the worst years of the country, with anti-democratic practices, and whose figure remains associated with the bloody repression of the 2008 opposition protests”.
On 1 June, Pashinyan paid a visit to Armenia where he was warmly greeted at the Elysee Palace. President Emmanuel Macron noted on that occasion: “I am pleased to host Acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan in Paris. Dear Nikol, we have worked hard together in recent years in support of your commitment to promoting democracy and fighting corruption”. He added that "France is alongside Armenia, and we will do our best to bring stability and prosperity to this country”.
Several incidents reported but no reports of major violence
Whilst voting in Armenia’s parliamentary elections appears to be proceeding without major violence or incidents, Armenian social media is buzzing with reports of various violations, of varying degree of seriousness. Alexander Petrosyan has been monitoring Armenian social media from his base in Brussels.
While no major violent incidents have been reported so far, there were two reported incidents of gunfire:
- The first, was at a polling station in the Azatashen village of Armenia's Ararat district, reported to the emergency services at 08.30 – half an hour after polls opened. It’s reported that a quarrel took place between representatives of the Prosperous Armenia and Verelk parties, one of whom fired several times from a gas pistol. The pistol has apparently been confiscated and authorities are investigating.
- The second was a shot fired at the car of Arman Babajanyan – co-leader of the Shirinyan-Babajanyan Alliance of Democrats. “[They] shot at my car. When a murderer, a thief and a Mafioso is at large and moreover is participating in elections we won’t avoid incidents like this,” Babajanyan said. It is reported that the car was unoccupied at the time.
In addition, this morning, flyers disparaging the leader of ‘Armenia Alliance’, Robert Kocharyan, have appeared across Yerevan. Kocharyan has called it a gross violation of law, alluding to government involvement. Speaking earlier, he warned “If the police do not find the criminals in the next 1-2 hours, we will consider and announce that it is being done by the authorities”.
Accusations have been circulating on several media reporting of directives given by the Ministry of Defence to soldiers in several parts of Armenia – notably Goris – to vote for Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party. The Ministry of Defence has said that it is investigating any such accusations, adding:
“The allegations in the publications so far do not correspond to reality. It is obvious that the allegations about the referrals are based exclusively on the fact that the servicemen were brought to the polling stations in a systematic way, and the videos attached to the publications are the evidence of that.”
OSCE on the ground
In the latest update from Yerevan, Benyamin Poghosyan notes that voters appear to be more active in Yerevan.
One of the key features of the current elections is the quite active participation of voters in the capital Yerevan, where 29.28 percent voted, as of 2 PM, whilst on the other hand in some regions numbers are quite low. Only in the Syunik region is higher voter participation registered so far, with 33.37 percent participation as of 2 PM. If this trend continues until the end of the voting, this process may pose a significant challenge for incumbent Prime Minister Pashinyan. He enjoys strong support in rural areas and in the small cities while facing tough competition in the big cities and especially in the capital Yerevan.
Opposition web pages and social media platforms continue to publish reports about irregularities during the voting process, paying particular attention to stories of soldiers voting under the alleged supervision of the officers. Irregularities during the voting of the soldiers were one of the main problems almost in all post-Soviet elections in Armenia.
Different elections this time
The current elections are being held under changed electoral rules that were agreed as part of the electoral reform adopted in April 2020 and commended by the Venice Commission.
The major changes are: 1. The removal of highly controversial district seats and shifting to fully closed party lists; and 2. The introduction of tightened criminal and administrative sanctions for electoral violations.
The amendments were preceded by two other significant reforms, municipal election reform and amendments to the Law on Political Parties.
To gain seats in parliament, parties need to receive a minimum of 5% of the votes. As for alliances, which consist of two or more party coalitions, need to receive a minimum of 7% of the votes.
A government forms if a party or an alliance gains 47% of the votes. If no political force gains 47%, then a maximum of three parties or alliances can unite and form a coalition government.
If a government is not formed within six days, a run-off round between the top two parties must be held 28 days after the first election.
A minimum of three political groups must enter parliament, regardless of the performance of the third-best performing party or alliance. The party that wins the run-off will be given the additional seats required for a 54% majority, with all seats allocated in the first round preserved.
Seats in the Parliament are allocated to parties using their national share of the vote. Four seats are reserved for national minorities (Assyrians, Kurds, Russians and Yazidis) with parties having separate lists for the four groups.
A gender quota requires any top section of a party list to include at least 30% of candidates of each gender.
If a party receives a majority of the vote but wins less than 54% of the seats, they will be awarded additional seats to give them 54% of the total. If one party wins over two-thirds of the seats, the losing parties which made it over the threshold will be given extra seats reducing the share of seats of the winning party to two-thirds.
A picture from Tavush province of Armenia
A picture from Tavush province of Armenia. Located northeast of Armenia and bordered by Georgia from the north and Azerbaijan from the east. Constituency 37, polling station N 15 seems to be very active.
Georgian Armenians with double citizenship have travelled back to Armenia to vote and participate in the electoral process
The Armenian elections are being closely followed by the diaspora all over the world. The Armenian diaspora in Georgia is a case in point. The following from Arnold Stepanian, Chairman of the Public Movement Multinational Georgia, in Tbilisi.
The Armenian community in Georgia is closely following the ongoing electoral process in Armenia with great interest. The sympathies vary, reflecting trends in Armenia itself, with some supporting the political movement of Nikol Pashinyan, while there are others supporting the parties of the former presidents. Those supporting the second President, Robert Kocharyan, mainly represent a group of people seeking revenge over the Karabakh issue.
The most active part of the Armenian community mostly from the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and Tbilisi, and who have double citizenship have left for Armenia a few days ago in order to get engaged in a pre-election campaign in support of the candidates as well as to cast their votes.
Voting at 26.82% by 14.00 (Yerevan)
We now have the second update on voter turn-out in today's Armenian parliamentary. At 14.00 (Yerevan), the number of votes cast was 695,626, amounting to 26.82% of those eligible. These figures were released by the Armenian Central Elections Commission.
For comparison, in the last elections in 2018, 636,055 voters, or 24.53% of the total number of voters, had voted around the same time.
Track the numbers here.
Opinion: What is at stake in Armenia’s parliamentary elections? A view from Azerbaijan
Accessibility, and the issue of the mobile ballot box
The lack of alternative voting methods remains an issue that has been raised by international experts and civil society.
Voting using a mobile box is provided for those recovering in a medical facility. In this case Precinct Elections Commission members can visit patients with a mobile ballot box. However, the list of names for voting by mobile ballot box must be submitted at the latest 10 days prior to elections day.
In the past, the use of the mobile box was the subject of many accusations of election fraud, and its limited use is welcomed by some.
A recent joint report by IFES-Armenia and Agate NGO, funded by USAID looks at accessibility issues in the Armenian elections.
Read the report here.
A picture from Lori province, in the north of the country. Constituency 22, polling station N 13 seems to be very quiet
A picture from polling station N 3 in Yerevan
Analysis: The Armenian parliamentary snap election – a way out or a new wave of chaos?
The pandemic and voting
The number of covid-19 infections in Armenia has been steadily decreasing but it was still necessary to put some measures in place during election day. International organizations such as The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) have been working closely with the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of Armenia, offering training and recommendations on how to mitigate pandemic-associated risks.
The Ministry of Health in Armenia has developed a set of hygiene protocols for the purpose of the elections. Yet there are some legal difficulties when it comes to enforcing the face mask rules in polling stations. It is not clear if polling station staff can turn voters away if the voter refused to comply with the health rules. The Armenian constitution says that any changes to core rights such as the right to vote, can only be done through laws passed by Parliament and not by regulations issued by governmental institutions like the CEC or the Ministry of Health.
See the recommendations from IFES here.
Situation in Yerevan and regions is relatively calm
Situation in Yerevan and in the regions is relatively calm. Benyamin Poghosyan, a regular contributor to the commonspace.eu website has sent us this update from Yerevan
Armenia elects a new parliament today. Voting in 2008 electoral precincts opened at 8 AM, and voting continues until 8 PM. According to the Central Electoral Commission, 12.2 percent of population voted as of 11 AM. During the previous parliamentary elections, which took place in December 2018, 7.76 percent of voters participated in the elections as of 11 AM. Incumbent Prime Minister Pashinyan and the second President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan have already voted.
In the night before the elections thousands of anti-Kocharyan leaflets were distributed in Yerevan streets. Armenia Alliance led by Kocharyan made a special statement calling police to find the perpetuators within several hours; otherwise it would hold the government responsible. Alliance also stated that representatives of its electoral headquarters are being summoned by the police based on false accusations filed against them by the supporters of the incumbent Prime Minister.
During the morning hours there were a few reports of irregularities published on opposition social media channels. They argue that in some precincts outside Yerevan, officers convince soldiers to vote for the “Civic Contract” party led by the incumbent Prime Minister Pashinyan. However, these reports have not been independently verified yet. In general, as of 1 PM Yerevan time, situation is relatively calm in both Yerevan and regions.
A large number of international observers are monitoring the Armenian elections
The largest mission is that of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE (OSCE-ODIHR).
The ODIHR is headed by Eoghan Murphy, and started its work in Armenia on Friday (18 May). The EOM has a core team of eleven international staff at the head office in Yerevan, drawn from nine OSCE participating States.
For election day the mission joins forces with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The mission totals 353 observers from 37 countries, including 249 ODIHR-deployed experts, long-term and short-term observers, 80 parliamentarians and staff from the OSCE PA, and 24 from PACE.
"Our observation mission has been operating here for a month now. And this is obviously a very important day for our mission. "We have more than 100 teams deployed across the country to conduct monitoring," Murphy told journalists in Yerevan this morning.
The mission observed all the processes - the registration of voters, candidates, the work of the CEC, studied the country's legislation, as well as the extent to which Armenia has lagged behind its international obligations.
"This is the first observation mission since the outbreak of the coronavirus, in which the OSCE / ODIHR deploys short-term observers. About 200 short-term observers are already stationed here. And this is the first case after the Covid-19 epidemic, "said the head of the mission.
The International Observation Mission will present its preliminary findings tomorrow Monday at 15.00 Yerevan time (1300 Central European Summer Time). We will cover the press conference live on this blog.
Voting at 12.2% by 11.00 o'clock (Yerevan)
We have the first figures of the number of voters in today's Armenian parliamentary elections. In the first three hours of voting the number of voters was 317,291, amounting to 12.2% of those eligible to vote. These figures were released by the Armenian Central Elections Commission. In comparison, in the last elections in 2018, 201,250 voters, or 7.76% of the total number of voters, had voted in the first three hours of polling.
Voter authentication aims to prevent fraud
Armenians wishing to vote have to show up with a valid ID and will be checked via an electronic Voter Authentication Device (VAD). Voter lists are based on the State Population Register, which is maintained by the Passport and Visa Department (PVD) of the police. It includes around 2,578,678 eligible voters who maintain permanent residence in Armenia.
The VADs were introduced in 2017 to help prevent potential electoral fraud (multiple voting and voter impersonation). According to the Armenian central elections committee, the VADs have significantly improved the efficiency of the voter identification process compared to previous paper-based methods.
Once the voter scans their passport into the VAD, the operator of the device will have to ask them to lower their mask to check their identity with the photo on the system for that ID.
Elections held in tense and highly polarised atmosphere
commonspace.eu political editor says that the elections come at a defining moment in Armenia’s modern political history. The defeat in the war with Azerbaijan in the autumn accentuated divisions in Armenian society. The elections were called as a way of coming out of the political impasse following the defeat, and the subsequent calls from various political forces for the prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, to resign. Pashinyan on his part has blamed the defeat on past mistakes committed by his political enemies in the two decades that they ran the country.
The political atmosphere in Armenia has been tense and highly polarised, but apart from some serious but isolated incidents, largely non-violent. But many Armenian political observers have raised the spectre of inconclusive results which may further increase tensions and instability. For this reason, the next few hours are going to be crucial. Much depends on voter turnout. A low voter turnout may question the legitimacy of the elections, but a high voter turnout can also result in a more polarised parliament.
Political leaders cast their vote
Armenian president, Armen Sarkissian and leaders of different political parties have already cast their vote. President Sarkissian spoke this morning with the Chairman of the Central Elections Commission as well as the heads of the police and security services to discuss the election process.
Armenia prime minister Nikol Pashinyan went to the polling station accompanied by his family. He made no comments to the press, but later wrote on his Facebook page: "I am voting for the future of our state and people, for the development of Armenia."
Armenia’s second president, Robert Kocharian (See picture), considered the most serious challenger to Pashinyan in this election has also already voted. Kocharian told the press "I voted for a dignified peace, then for economic growth, this is the choice".
Voting starts in Armenia's elections
Armenian Elections 2021 – Live Blog
Editors: William Murray and Noman Ahmed
Good morning and welcome to this commonspace.eu live blog, following developments in Armenia as the country votes in what some have described as the most important elections in its modern history. We are joined by our team of experts here at the commonspace.eu offices in The Hague as well as contributors in Brussels, Yerevan and Tbilisi as we assess the elections and their impact on Armenia and the region.
Voting started at 0800 local time in polling stations around the country. There are 2,578,678 eligible to vote according to data published by the police this morning.
This was the scene at polling station no 6 in Yerevan as the first voters arrived to cast their vote around four hours ago. (Picture from live feed)