On December 10, the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM) published its preliminary conclusions regarding the elections held on December 9, 2018. The OSCE/ODIHR remarks significantly differ from those provided last year.
In the preliminary observations of the OSCE/ODIHR EOM for the parliamentary elections on April 2, 2017, the negative impacts of electoral bribes on electoral processes were especially emphasized. According to OSCE/ODIHR, “Despite welcomed reforms of the legal framework and the introduction of new technologies to reduce the incidents of electoral irregularities, the elections were tainted by credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.”
However, in the remarks on the 2018 snap parliamentary elections, it is already noted that the general absence of electoral malfeasance, including of vote-buying and pressure on voters, allowed for genuine competition. Thus, the 2018 observations of the OSCE / ODIHR mission point to the absence of election bribes, while in 2017 they were present.
According to 2017 observations, there were credible reports of vote-buying by certain political parties and exertion of pressure on voters and on state employees, including medical staff and school staff, which contributed to the reduction of public trust in the electoral process. While according to the 2018 observations, “The 9 December early parliamentary elections were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms. In fact, in the case of early elections, the OSCE/ODIHR sees growth in public trust.
The 2017 and 2018 mission observations are also fundamentally different with respect to pressures on the citizens and abuse of administrative resources. With regard to 2017 elections, the OSCE/ODIHR had particularly stated, “The OSCE/ODIHR EOM also received credible reports of pressure and intimidation on voters, especially on private and public sector employees.” Union of Informed Citizens NGO published recordings in which principles of 114 schools accepted that they prepared lists of teachers and parents of students who support RPA. Meanwhile, according to the 2018 report, “To prevent misuse of administrative resources and pressure on public employees, authorities raised awareness about relevant prohibitions among local officials, school principals, health workers and others.”
Freedom of expression
In 2017, the OSCE/ODIHR EOM noted that though freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution and broadly exercised, the freedom of broadcast media is limited by the interference of owners into editorial autonomy. “This resulted in self-censorship of journalists and discouragement of critical reporting of the government, including on public television.” According to the 2018 observations, freedom of expression was respected during the campaign. “Most of ODIHR EOM interlocutors noted improvements in media freedom and plurality of opinions.” Moreover, self-censorship is not mentioned in the conclusions text.
Overall, the observations of the OSCE/ODIHR EOM show that after the revolution, the public trust in the elections has increased, the pressure on the voters has diminished, and the administrative resource abuse and media self-censorship have not been observed. In fact, the OSCE/ODIHR EOM has noted improvement of electoral processes in Armenia during the past one and a half years.
Union of Informed Citizens