On February 26, human rights activist Avetik Ishkhanyan, head of the Armenian Helsinki Committee, held a press conference, presenting a preliminary report on the committee’s observation mission at the February 18 Armenian presidential election.
The committee conducted observations only at 36 polling stations (6/01 – 6/36) of the Yerevan Ajapnyak district, where, according to the report, “grave violations” were registered including voter bribing, voters being accompanied to the poll station, violations of the secrecy of the ballot, voting for another person and double voting, cases of pressure on observers. Amongst the over 100 cases two stand out: the one registered by an observer at the 6/12 polling station, when Serj Sargsyan’s authorized delegate told two women that he will give them 40000 AMD if they ensure a stable flow of the residents of their apartment block, and the one reported by Aghavni Nazaryan, one of the voters of the 6/16 polling station, who told that the 4 names of her family members were signed on the voter list, although they are abroad. The police opened a case file based on the last case. During the poll, the observers registered, that on the 6/16 polling station about 200 ballots for Raffi Hovhannisyan were lost, and only after the observers announced the fact, someone turned off the light at the polling station, after which the lost bulletins were found, although around 25 of them were still missing. Avetik Ishkhanyan said that it is difficult to conduct an observation mission in Armenia and to recruit observers with the needed values. “Conducting an observation mission is a hard job, it is very hard to find people of integrity, who will not yield in to deceit and threats, will be honest, principalled and brave,” said Mr. Ishkhanyan, adding that because of that his organization conducted the observation mission in small groups, so that “we could be sure the reliability of their provided information.” Avetik Ishkhanyan also noted that this election was held with grave violations, and the information he possesses tells that at least “there is no way the incumbent president Serj Sargsyan could have won the elections in one round.” In the Ajapnyak district, where the observer mission was conducted, Raffi Hovhannisyan came first with 45% of the vote, winning by a margin of 1174 votes, Serj Sargsyan came second with 42% of the vote, spoiled ballots were the third largest category. “This pictures was present at many other poll stations, however in other locations, such as Abovyan city, the protocols of all poll stations of which I have, Raffi Hovhannisyan came firstin 22 poll stations from 25, winning by a margin of 150-200 votes, but only at 3 poll stations, where an 80% participation was registered, Serj Sargsyan won by a margin of 1000-1700 votes. This information gives reason for doubt,” Avetik Ishkhanyan told the Media Center. Going back to the assessments of the international observers, Ishkhanyan said that it is impossible to see the real picture of the process by staying 15-20 minutes at a polling station.“It is because of that reason that I told them only to register those violations that they saw, and leave the Armenian nation to do its conclusions” You can watch the full recording of the press conference by following this link.