Wednesday, 20 February 2008

'Impressive show of power'

Picture of the Day:

*Security forces are on standby in central Yerevan as oppositionists meet to protest (photo by Photolure, via ArmeniaNow)

by John Hughes, ArmeniaNow

[...] In taking the presidency Sargsyan assumes the seat of power following a day of voting that challenged definitions of “free and fair”.

It is further expected that Armenia’s third president will take over with the begrudged blessing of western allies who once again for the sake of regional stability, will need to overlook this government’s apparent willingness to dodge democratic fundamentals – open voting and vote buying among them, as witnessed by members of this staff. (Press conferences are scheduled later today by observer missions who monitored yesterday’s process.)

To claim his landslide victory Sargsyan was aided by an army of loyalists who handed out money for votes and were accused of physically assaulting and emotionally intimidating his opposition at polling stations. Complicit, too, was State Police, who dismissed reports of such incidents as “groundless” for investigation. (To be fair, wrongdoing was not unique to the Republican Party. Ter-Petrosyan’s camp was accused of some incidents of intimidation, though in far fewer reports from sources generally sympathetic to the opposition.)

The outcome was further aided through the engagement of a British polling agency that – for the first time in Armenian elections – produced exit poll data.

The British “Populus” analysis group announced – within 45 minutes of polls closing – that Sargsyan was the run-away winner. (Conveniently, their numbers are consistent with those expected to be released by CEC.) Two giant asterisks should be attached to the group’s findings. First: the number crunchers were hired by government-run television. Second: They used data provided by the pro-government Armenian Sociological Association.

A separate poll, conducted by a coalition of Armenian non-governmental organizations, produced a considerably different outlook, giving Ter-Petrosyan 37 percent and Sargsyan 35 – a win for neither.

In a less suspicious contest, the result would likely have been close, probably forcing a Sargsyan-Ter-Petrosyan runoff. (In Armenia’s system, a candidate must get 50 percent plus one vote to win in one round.) But a runoff would not have favored Sargsyan, as his opponent might have inherited the support of other opposition candidates to amass enough votes for a second-round win.

To move from prime minister to president, Sargsyan needed a first-round win that was most easily achieved through means that may not be found in this or any other Election Code.

It is an impressive show of power. It is, too, a demonstrative prediction of what Armenians can expect for, probably, the next decade – a forceful leader with determined aspirations for what is best for his country and for himself.


artmika said...

as expected...

OSCE: Armenia Vote Mostly OK

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP)— An influential international observer mission said Armenia's presidential election was "mostly in line with the country's international commitments, although further improvements are necessary."

Armenia's election commission on Wednesday declared Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian the winner, while more than 15,000 opposition supporters protested in the capital, claiming the Tuesday vote was rigged.

The generally approving assessment of the observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe could undermine the momentum of opposition protesters.

The OSCE mission, in a preliminary statement, said there were concerns about the vote count.

"The problems we observed, particularly during the counting, must be addressed to increase overall confidence in the electoral process," Anne-Marie Lizin, one of the mission coordinators, said in the statement.

But "compared to the previous presidential elections, significant progress was noted with regard to the preparation and conduct of the electoral process," said Marie Anne Isler, head of the European Parliament contingent within the OSCE mission.

Sarkisian would succeed his close political associate Robert Kocharian, who stepped down as president after two terms.

artmika said...

...and here what I think of international observers:

Election monitors, like polls: Do we trust them?