Recently I requested some information on the electoral process in Armenia, from a friend who moved to Armenia, and for over 15 years lives permanently in Yerevan and is an active citizen. Judging from what he wrote via email, It seems that, the electoral rules and the regulations in Armenia are almost identical to our electoral system in Canada.
Like here ,in Armenia too, it begins with mailing the voting cards with the name of the voter, the voting date, and the address of the poling station on it, and continuous with an orderly procedures till it ends with the casting of the vote.”Till his/her name is crossed out from the voters list”.
It seems all the ways and means to verify any falsification are there, including the right of all the participating Political Parties to have their certified proxies, or scrutineers, at each ballot box right from the beginning till the counting of the ballots “immediately after the voting closes”. I do not know any better system to proof verify the votes than this. An actual voter’s list signed and verified by all certified proxies and the electoral officers.
The Armenian voting process had one advantage over the Canadian system which is that, the list of the eligible voters are displayed outside each poling station ahead of the time that every one can read and identify the ones on the list that do not live at that address any more, of course if he/she choose to do so. Specially so for the participating Political Parties to proof verify the lists with their volunteer campaign workers and volunteer canvassers as we do in Canada.
I think making the voters list available to the public (and assuming also to the participating Political Parties as well, as is the case in Canada) is another efficient way, to proof check the most talked about, “ballot stuffing”,”multiple voting” problems, that the authorities are claimed to be using to falsify the elections. Specially so for the Opposition Parties to factually challenge the falsified voters list. It is hard work but doable.
The other major problem he described was that, the authorities through their administrative resources, (teachers professors, mayors, regional governors “Մարզպէտ” army officers etc), not only influence/bribe the government employees, students, conscripts etc, but their family members as well, and this seems to be more widespread specially, in the regions and the villages. This problem although very troubling, but it seems to me that, it is harder to prove, unless of course, if the victims of the fraud report them personally with the proof to back it up.
The best way to minimize this frauds, is to educate the voters about their voting rights. Specially so, for the young 18 to 30 year old generation, who never lived under the Soviet era “order and obey rules”, and encourage them to disobey their soviet educated senior apparatchiks who unfortunately, are still in charge of running the country the old way.
Now that I know more about the electoral process in Armenia through unofficial but reliable source, I am more than ever convinced that the December 6 Referendum vote was a golden opportunity for the Opposition Parties to organize a joint campaign to defeat this New Constitution with a NO vote, and achieve an electoral victory, or proof verify the falsifications.
Needless to say they failed, and they failed miserably, and specially so, because of the fact that, this was just a YES or NO vote. There were no any policy disagreements, no political issues to iron out, no issue who is going to be the leader, or big egos to satisfy. It was a matter of coordination of the joint efforts while each one controlling its own volunteer work force , and according to its own strength, but campaigning for the same purpose, and the credit going to ALL participants. It cannot get any better.
I know no other better way to achieve regime change by the Opposition Parties other than to get well organised, with equally well organised, “electoral machines” that is anchored in every polling district to campaign with a clear alternative platform, to the current regime’s policies, and win the voters trust, with a victory at the ballot box.
As conclusion let me say that, all the complains of falsifications, and regime change through street demonstrations with dwindling numbers, by the Opposition Parties, are not only counterproductive but also, it is a failure of the leadership to utilize the laws available to them, and thus lead by example.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian