Anthony Bowyer, left, and Linda Edgeworth share their perspectives on election management in Armenia.
In contrast to the 2008 presidential election in Armenia, where fraud allegations sparked deadly protests and strong government reaction, this year’s parliamentary elections were characterized by high turnout and peaceful proceedings. Although challenges remain, international observers noted significant improvements in the process, including in the vote count.
On May 22, IFES hosted a discussion on Armenia’s evolving electoral system with Anthony Bowyer, IFES program manager for the Caucasus and Central Asia, and Linda Edgeworth, a longtime consultant for IFES. Both panelists were in Armenia for the recent elections and shared their impressions and recommendations for future votes.
Bowyer outlined IFES’ current work in Armenia, which included working with the Central Election Commission on a voter information campaign and training approximately 14,000 election officials throughout the country before Election Day. After observing polling and vote counting in southern Armenia, Bowyer described the elections as a “half step backward but a full step forward” for the country. While some issues still exist, he said, there were significant gains in transparency and competitiveness.
Edgeworth contrasted the May 6 elections with the 2008 presidential election when she said violence and doubt about the vote’s legitimacy was “everywhere,” even before Election Day. While problems such as journalist kidnappings and attacks against election observers curtailed freedom of expression and assembly during the 2008 process, the 2012 elections were described as competitive, vibrant and peaceful.
Both speakers said many of the advances seen in these most recent elections could be connected to recent reforms to Armenia’s electoral code. The reforms, which were passed last year, were developed through collaboration among lawmakers, civil society representatives and international organizations. Because they were approved well in advance of the parliamentary vote, election officials, political parties, media and citizens had time to become familiar with changes and implement them properly.
Remaining challenges that the speakers identified include the maintenance of an accurate voter registry, establishing an effective method for resolving electoral disputes, engaging youth in the political process and working against an electoral culture in which vote buying and a public perception of political influence in the results persist.
Bowyer and Edgeworth emphasized the importance of international engagement in Armenia’s electoral process. They said the period between now and the 2013 presidential elections is a critical window for consolidating gains made in the elections held this year and addressing areas still in need of improvement.
Armenia's May 6 parliamentary elections marked an important step in the country's democratic development. After a 2008 presidential election marred by fraud allegations and deadly protests, Armenian citizens and international observers alike waited anxiously to see what precedent this vote would set for Armenian democracy in the future.
Although the results offered few surprises, with the ruling coalition led by President Serzh Sarkysian's Republican Party maintaining its majority, the May 6 elections reveal important information about Armenia's developing electoral system and the political forces that will lead the country going forward.
Please join the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) for a discussion with election experts who witnessed the vote in Armenia. Topics covered by the panel will include:
- The implementation of Armenia's revised electoral code
- Gains in transparency, security and election management over previous elections
- The role of youth in Armenia's political process
- The use of mobile technology and social media to spread information about the elections
- The impact of the election results on Armenia's domestic politics as well as its policy toward neighbors such as Azerbaijan and Iran
Anthony Bowyer, IFES Program Manager for the Caucasus and Central Asia
Linda Edgeworth, IFES consultant
Moderated by Michael Svetlik, IFES Vice President of Programs.
Learn more about IFES' work in Armenia and activities supporting election management.