The Yerevan municipal elections were held on May 5, complete with reported violations and harassment and subsequent criticisms. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia secured 58 percent of the vote and thus will determine the next mayor of Yerevan, who’s most definitely incumbent Taron Markarian. Prosperous Armenia Party and the Barev Yerevan movement garnered 20 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively. Voter turnout was 53.5 percent. All other opposition parties/ blocks were shut out.
Many political parties that are in opposition to the government or still on the fence were putting their faith in these elections, hoping that democracy would work in their favor this time around and system-wide reform would begin in Yerevan. Onlookers from thousands of miles away will be eager to see the election results and make their judgments about political successes and failures accordingly.
Despite past monitoring efforts by European structures like the OSCE and the pretense of transparency, it has been very easy to falsify the vote –not to mention essential in order to retain power–in nearly every election. Not only are games played at the polling stations–forging signatures on voter lists, ballot stuffing, bribing, carousel voting, harassment and so forth, numbers are undoubtedly being conjured behind closed doors at the Central Election Commission (CEC). Naturally, this cannot be proven for certain since the CEC ultimately reports to the president, just as all state bodies do.
In other words, the conclusion that the candidate or party that acquires the most votes is the real winner is a naïve sentiment for the simple fact that democracy and the rule of law are not allowed to function properly so long as the president of Armenia does not value that system of governance. And I don’t only mean Serge Sargsyan–his two predecessors also behaved essentially as dictators. The president has complete control over all governmental agencies and institutions, and ultimately he has the final say as to how something will play out. If governmental corruption for instance is to be stamped out, he must have the will to do it, not only the prime minister, who clearly doesn’t or else is powerless to do so. The judiciary likewise reports to the president; it can act independently in low-profile cases where private interests are not at stake. When the president wishes for a ruling to be made one way or another, the judge holding the verdict is obliged to carry out his wishes, or be dismissed.
The CEC is no exception to the rule. The head of the commission also caters to the whims, or rather the shrewd planning, of the president. In other words, the “official results” of the elections cannot be taken at face value as being legitimate and a just expression of will by the people. The doctrine of legitimacy is prescribed by the president of Armenia alone.
Sunday’s vote was falsified again simply because the authorities could get away with it, as was made quite obvious in February’s presidential elections, while managing to gain praise from Russia, Europe and the United States in the aftermath.
And when communities in the Diaspora continue to ignore violations of democratic values by blindly embracing the outcome of the vote (or remaining indifferent), despite any blatant flaws that were revealed, the Armenian citizenry is let down knowing that its compatriots based abroad are unsupportive of its plight.
Until the Armenian nation fully embraces democracy, the same free and fair elections that Western nations covet as the purest demonstration of freedom cannot be held. The determination is necessary, along with the much-needed collective consensus on the vote from the Diaspora. This time around, it is vital for Armenian communities worldwide, which have expressed their concern and support for Armenia’s freedom, to carefully read about the violations that were reported by the Armenian press throughout the day (notable news sources include Hetq Online, RFE/RL, A1+ and Civilnet).
One hundred observers from the Diaspora were purportedly monitoring the municipal elections. Their crucial findings will need to be considered quite carefully in determining whether democracy in Armenia can indeed flourish, as it should.