It is not frequently that we hear good news related to upcoming presidential election campaign in Armenia. However, this news I would certainly consider Good News.
For the first time, exit poll will be conducted during presidential elections in Armenia. This offer was made by current US envoy in Armenia during his meeting today with Prime Minister and presidential hopeful Serj Sargsyan. Armenian Prime Minister accepted the offer, adding that even if US did not offer it, they would have sought assistance of specialised agencies to conduct exit poll. This is certainly positive development. If the results of exit poll, which are usually announced immediately after polling stations closed, would be similar to official results published by Central Electorate Commission, this would add to legitimacy of conducted elections.
Of course, having exit poll by no means an indicator of fair and free elections (recent example - Russia), because exit poll is mainly aimed at the latest stage of election process – vote count, to ensure that count of votes at local polling stations and in Central Commission are not falsified. This is very important, as we know that one of the most common voting irregularities during Armenian elections used to happen during the vote count. However, it does not reflect pre-election campaign and voting process per se, although indirectly exit poll may reflect the effect of mass ballot stuffing (if it happens) on the final results. What is also important is to ensure that pre-election period gives equal chances for all candidates to access media, and specifically TV (and specifically Public TV!); also to ensure that people are free to make their votes during voting process itself. Only then the elections could be considered free and fair.
In any case, having exit poll is a positive development, and I welcome Armenian government’s positive attitude towards it.