Friday, June 01, 2007

So what ever happened at that Armenian election?

As everyone who didn't sleep through civics class (or who has worked on a political campaign) knows, an election doesn't end when the polling places close...

And as anyone involved in Washington state politics knows, an election doesn't even end when they've counted the votes - at least not after they've counted them the first time... or even the second... or even the third...

For international elections I've observed with the OSCE, the counting of the ballots and the reporting procedures were done by hand and the national election laws ususally have deadlines that reflect this.

In Armenia, the votes were supposed to be counted at the local polling places within ten hous of the polling places being closed - after which all the election materials and the completed election protocol (a "results sheet") are transfered to a Territorial Elections Center (which is the "stairwell-was-a-urinal" building where I was assigned on election night).

The "Boss" of the Territorial Election Commission on election night - with sealed bags containing ballots piled in the corner behind him.

The observations by OSCE volunteers in 108 polling places and 39 out of the 41 Territorial Elections Centers resulted in thousands of observation forms being filled out with an incredible amount of data - all of which is analyzed and processed into a Post-Election Report, the preliminary version of which is now online at

The "Boss" of the Territorial Election Commission on the phone with officials at the Centeral Election Commission:

"I can't believe what those idiots at the PEC did with this crap! They just threw it all into a box and brought it to us. The bags weren't sealed! Their protocol sheets were full of errors! The math doesn't add up! What am I supposed to do with this mess?

"OK, that's what we'll do - we'll put it all in a broom closet in the back room and take care of it later...."

In short - there were procedural problems observed during the election, which are summed up as follows:

Following the 12 May elections to the National Assembly and the Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions by the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) on 13 May, the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM) continued to observe the vote tabulation, the announcement of results and the handling of complaints and appeals.

• During these last stages of the election process, the OSCE/ODIHR EOM observed certain inconsistencies with established regulations and departures from best electoral practice which do not contribute to strengthening public confidence in the election process.

• The vote count and tabulation were protracted but completed generally within legal deadlines. However, delay by the Central Election Commission (CEC) in posting tabulated results from the Yerevan constituencies on its website compromised transparency measures put in place for
these elections.

• Several Territorial Election Commissions (TECs) were observed ordering corrections to Precinct Election Commission (PEC) protocols, including adjustments to “initial data” (for example, number of voters according to the voter lists, number of ballots received), contrary to the Election Code.

• The OSCE/ODIHR EOM observed discrepancies, some of them significant, between certified polling station protocol copies and preliminary disaggregated results tabulated by TECs and submitted electronically mainly via a networked computer system. While such mistakes may not have been deliberate, they included numbers swapped between lines, incorrect calculations and discrepancies in initial data.

• Three of the nine CEC members refused to sign the protocol of the nationwide preliminary proportional contest results, citing reports of violations that called into question the accuracy of the results. They refused also to sign the final results protocol.

• Recounts of results were initially requested in twelve constituencies, and took place to completion in five. These were conducted in accordance with the law and revealed no major results discrepancies with the preliminary results.

• At least 20 complaints and appeals relating to election day were received and adjudicated by the CEC and TECs.

• The president and the prime minister have stated that criminal responsibility for electoral violations is to be pursued. Some criminal cases have been initiated related to falsification of results, bribery and fraud involving the voter list. The OSCE/ODIHR welcomes these steps and emphasizes the importance of the thorough and impartial investigation of all alleged irregularities.