Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Armenian presidential election - the biggest scandal in the Council of Europe

Russian Kommersant daily reports:

Yesterday the PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) spring session opened in Strasbourg. First the delegates discussed the recent Russian presidential election, unanimously acknowledging it unfair and unjust, and even tried to find measures to be taken against Russia. Nonetheless one shouldn’t rule out the possibility of taking measures against Armenia before it comes to Russia: Yesterday the presidential election in that country caused a big scandal in the PACE.

Row over Armenia

The biggest yesterday’s scandal concerned discussing the situation in Armenia. During the morning session, Britain’s John Prescott, ex-Deputy Prime Minister in Tony Blair’s government, delivered his report on the recent presidential election in Armenia, which was even less critical than that on Russia’s election. Mr Prescott stated that it complied with the standards of the Council of Europe. The lack of criticism about Armenia though roused the indignation of several delegates.

Hungary’s Zsolt Németh reminded that the Armenian election resulted in civil unrest, with 9 people killed. “The Council of Europe legitimizes the anti-democratic policy of the Armenian government! If we are unable to influence or change anything, let’s give up the practice of sending observers there! We need a thorough evaluation of the monitor missions,” claimed the excited Mr Németh.

Sweden’s Marietta Purbe-Lundin, member of the PACE mission to Armenia, described emotionally that in her presence vote fraud took place. “Hundreds of ballots for Levon Ter-Petrosyan were rendered to be for Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. The members of the electoral commission were aware of what they were doing and that I saw it, but they were far from embarrassed. There were Mr Sargsyan’s observers at the polling station, who so much threatened everyone there – my interpreter begged me not to make any remarks to them. I was so frustrated that couldn’t get a wink of sleep that night,” the parliamentarian complained.

Azerbaijan’s Samad Seidov was even more critical of Armenia, “Mr Prescott says that the Armenian election complies with the standards of the Council of Europe. What does he mean? Have murders become the standards of the Council of Europe? Here 9 people killed were mentioned, but no one recollected those died in jail, or thousands of political prisoners, including the members of the Armenian Parliament. Why is the world so closely watching the situation in Tibet, paying no attention to the arbitrariness in Armenia?”

Nevertheless, John Prescott and several other observers stated that the critics of Armenia’s election were too emotional and biased, whereas there were no shocking facts of electoral fraud registered.

All in all, the dispute is sure to continue. It was decided in the morning that ad hoc debates on Armenia be held Thursday, which means that the majority of the delegates rather disagree with the positive conclusions of Mr Prescott. More to the point, Russia’s representatives told Kommersant that the question of overhauling and confirming the credentials of the Armenian delegation might be raised during one of the forthcoming PACE sessions.


tzitzernak said...

The true scandal is Prescott et al's conclusion in light of all of the evidence and first hand accounts given. The Save Armenia Action Group has already sent out a letter - I've posted it.

artmika said...

Just received the following appeal of NGOs

(April 17 plenary session)

We, the undersigned Armenian Non-Governmental Organizations, call upon the deputies of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to adopt a resolution that will contribute to the resolution of the gravest political crisis in the history of modern Armenia.

The current crisis began following the large-scale falsification of the 19 February, 2008 presidential election by Armenia’s current authoritarian regime. Electoral violations included the systematic beating and intimidation of proxies of the main opposition challenger, Levon Ter-Petrossian, the intervention, in coordination with the police, of criminal gangs in the electoral process, ballot-stuffing, vote-buying, multiple voting, flawed counting and tabulation processes, and refusals to register or consider the appeals of Ter-Petrossian’s team by electoral commissions at all levels.

Beginning on 20 February, several hundred thousands of people staged demonstrations, marches, and all-night vigils in an improvised tent camp in Freedom Square – the traditional venue for mass democratic protests since 1988 – to protest the most disgraceful election in the history of Armenian democracy. Eleven days of demonstrations ensued, praised by an official US statement for “effective crowd management” and their exclusively peaceful character.

On 1 March, however, the police, acting on the orders of the highest authorities and without warning, attacked and dispersed the demonstrators at 6:50 a.m., launching a police operation during which thousands of people were beaten all throughout the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, in order to prevent them from gathering. Later that morning, at 9:00, the police once again attacked tens of thousands of protesters who had spontaneously gathered near the French Embassy. Clashes ensued and seven civilians and one policeman died under yet unclear circumstances; there is strong evidence of excessive lethal force by government special forces.

The peaceful nature of the demonstrations and the inappropriately brutal response of the authorities give credibility to claims by the opposition that the disorder was provoked and the clashes planned in advance by the government, in order to declare a state of emergency before a ruling by the constitutional court would be issued on the opposition demand to recognize the election results as invalid and conduct new elections. The state of emergency, which allowed the regime to arrest more than one hundred political leaders and members of the Ter-Petrossian campaign, silence the independent press, and suspend the activities of political parties, deprived the opposition of the opportunity to make its case freely and under the scrutiny of a democratically functioning society. Intimidation of members of the constitutional court was also reported. The regime further restricted the freedom of assemblies through hastily enacting legislation, which allows the authorities to ban opposition rallies practically at will.

The response of the international community to the rigged 19 February elections, the 1 March brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, and the unlawful imposition of the state of emergency, as well as modifications in the law on assemblies, which effectively eliminated right of free assembly in Armenia, has been shocking. The unprecedented consolidation of civil society and more than 25 parties in a nation-wide pro-democracy movement was essentially ignored by the democratic community of Europe. By continuing business as usual with the Armenian authorities, democratic European countries effectively sided with a brutal oppressive regime, which lost even the remnants of any popular support after the bloody events 1 March.

In order to restore the constitutional order in the country, prevent the authorities from oppressing the democratic movement with impunity, and restore political stability in the country and the legitimacy of the presidency, we urge the deputies of the PACE to adopt a resolution, which
• Does not recognize the outcome of the 19 February, 2008 presidential election,
• Demands the conduct of a new, free and fair, presidential election,
• Calls for an independent international investigation of 1 March events,
• Demands the immediate release of all political prisoners,
• Demands the restoration of freedom of speech, media, and assembly.

Center for Freedom and Rights
‘’Concord’’ Center for Political and Legal Studies
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Armenian Committee
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office
Lawyers for Human Rights
Society against Terrorism
Society without Violence
Women for Peace
Young Conservators
Youth Academy of Democracy and Development
Youth for Democracy

Anonymous said...

This guy Prescott could've worked at H1.
And after that the Serzhophiles claim that opposition is supported by "the West"...
Is there anything else that the West could do to support Serzh???

Anonymous said...

COE is a joke!
It's run by beaureaucrats with few moral ideals.
Some of them are simply former communists from Eastern european countries.
The fact that Russian elections are condemned while the Armenians aren't is nonsense.
After all in Russia, there were no protests, no killing, no mass arrests, no mass media closure.
I'm not a big fan of Putin's regime, but even Putinism is much better than Serzhism

Anonymous said...

It's really unwise for this Azeri guy Samad Seidov to talk about this issue.
I mean Armenians will get rid of Serzhik in a year or two (in the worst case), but Azerbaijan is gonna be stuck with Aliev's clan for a couple of decades to come.
I wonder what he's gonna say when Armenians kick out Serzhik and establish a real and effective democracy.
That would be the beginning of the end for Azerbaijan

Armen Filadelfiatsi said...

That's a nice, strongly worded appeal. Good for them.

But I've never had much faith in NGOs, just because of their NGO status: If you define yourself as "non-governmental," then you surely do have something with the "governmental," because you are it's--NOT.

Azad said...

Artmika says: He “delivered his report on the recent presidential election in Armenia, which was even less critical than that on Russia’s election”. (even?)

Anonymous 3:52 says: “even Putinism is much better than Serzhism”

In Russia, the “election committee” had screened the presidential candidates leaving only 3 “safe” challengers to Putin in the race. In Armenia, no candidate was blocked from participating in the election.

The Russians raised so many obstacles for international and European observers that they cancelled their mission and did not even bother to go there. A large number of observers were present in Armenia.

The opposition coalition “The Other Russia” who had been banned from participating in the race did try to stage a protest rally on the Red Square right after the elections. The security forces intervened on the spot, dispersed them and arrested some of the participants. Whereas in Armenia, the opposition managed to stage non-stop protest rallies for 10 days.

I am curious to know why some of you consider the Russian elections less problematic.

artmika said...

Azad, just a brief clarification re your citation at the beginning of your comment: these are not my words, but Russian Kommersant newspaper.

grigor sargsyan said...

[...] Why is the world so closely watching the situation in Tibet, paying no attention to the arbitrariness in Armenia? [...]

I just loved this part. The Azeri guy really thinks very highly of us. I think we should thank him. Indeed, the whole world should be concerned about Armenia, but unfortunately they always find something else to do.

Anonymous said...

Prescott himself is a big joke. he resigned as Deputy Prime Minister after being caught having an affair with his secretary.

More ridiculous was the time he punched an opposition in the nose supporter after that man had thrown an egg at him.

He was also implicated in a corruption scandal for taking but I guess that goes with the territory of being a politiican.

So it is a sad day when someone like John Prescott is making judgements about Armenia's democracy...

artmika said...

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) resolution on Armenia

Strasbourg, 17.04.2008 – In order to move forward, Armenia should urgently undertake reforms of the political system and of the electoral process, guarantee the independence of the judiciary, the public media and freedom of assembly, and stop the harassment of opposition media outlets, arbitrary arrests and politically motivated detentions, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) said today.

According to the resolution adopted, “the only way to allow the country to move forward with the above-mentioned urgently-needed reforms is the initiation of an open and constructive dialogue between political forces”, the parliamentarians said.

Following the proposals of the PACE rapporteurs on Armenia (Georges Colombier, France, EPP/CD, and John Prescott, United Kingdom, SOC), the parliamentarians listed a number of conditions for such a dialogue to start, notably the immediate opening of an independent inquiry into the events of 1 March (which resulted in 10 people killed and 200 injured), the urgent release of the persons detained on seemingly artificial and politically motivated charges and the revocation of the amendments recently adopted by the National Assembly to the Law on conducting meetings, assemblies, rallies and demonstrations, with immediate effect.

Unless these conditions are met and an open dialogue on the reforms mentioned is seriously engaged, “the credibility of Armenia as a member of the Council of Europe is put into doubt”, the parliamentarians said.

“The Assembly should therefore consider the possibility of suspending the voting rights of the Armenian delegation to the Assembly at the opening of its June 2008 part-session, if no considerable progress has been made on these requirements by then”, the resolution concludes.