Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Armenia: from the most predictable and ‘safe’ election to slap in the face for ruling regime

The outcome was predictable. Incumbent president won. Well, “officially”. Armenia's ruling regime would never voluntarily *ok* 2nd round of election as this would be = defeat for them. Only the revolt of the masses could possibly force such transformation.

The predictability of Armenian elections is becoming a painful sign to the extent that at times I wonder: why bother following the news if you can simply use material from previous years, copy paste and change the date. From the process of voting to the outcome and international observers’ (OSCE/ODIHR) verdict. Same old, same old. 

As soon as polling stations closed, the results of regime-sponsored 'exit poll' were announced, giving incumbent president 58%, and Raffi 32%. To remind, exit polls in Armenia are conducted by fake Gallup with the help of discredited Armenian Sociological Association. Basically, a double fake.

The only reason Armenia authorities started using fake Gallup is to provide sense of legitimacy for their f*-ed up election, a kind of PR coup for both internal [psychological intervention to prepare for pictured percentages] and external consumption [‘hey, here we are, we commissioned ‘exit polls’, with the “Gallup” name on it’ - a successful tactic, as this gets subsequently cited by international media, without any checking of the real source of such ‘exit poll’]. 

And... surprise-surprise: With all polling stations cast, the preliminary official results are 58.6% for incumbent vs 36.7% for Raffi.

Numerous images of intentionally invalidated ballot papers (as a sign of protest) could be found on Facebook or media reports. Ironically, this helped incumbent to increase his %.

The most sensational result of the night, however, was a crushing defeat of incumbent in Armenia’s second city Gyumri, with Raffi getting a massive 70% (!)

Even with official numbers (36.7%) I do not trust, this protest vote for Raffi is more than I expected. And here is hoping, after all.

This is no less than a big slap in the face for incumbent president. Plus, as ‏@Akhtamar89 added: "@unzippedblog Good! It might also be a slap in the face for all those who withheld their votes or gave into bribes thinking they've no voice

While I sympathise Raffi and endorsed him for the election, he is not necessarily your typical fighter figure for mass mobilisation. Unless people took to the streets and make Raffi fight for his votes, it’s difficult to imagine any changes in election results.

Nevertheless, a sheer volume of protest votes will act as a signal for the authorities that they are getting too close to the boiling point (if not reached already), and the reforms are inevitable. Armenia will change as a result of this election.
And in case you were wondering, a predictable verdict of international observers: election was "in line..." and a "step forward". [From friend’s FB status : ODIHR. Oh, dear.]

Their attitude was summed up perfectly by this hilarious Twitter account @OSCEIntObserver: "We don't understand what all the fuss is about. Isn't #Armenia just a Russian exclave? Like Kaliningrad? #armvote13"

Another classic from ‏@OSCEIntObserver (in response to my tweet that I started working on election related blog post): "@unzippedblog You should do what we do. Our report was written long before election day. #armvote13 #Armenia"

And the video of the day. How activists stole the show at international observers’ press conference. 

P.S. For more updates and insight on #armvote13 and more, see my Twitter page @unzippedblog