The main aspects of concern were discussed and most important recommendations for amendments were voiced.
The debate participants included Khosrov Harutyunyan and Samvel Nikoyan, NA members of Republican Party of Armenia, Avetik Ishkhanyan, Chairman of Helsinki Committee of Armenia, Heriknaz Tigranian, Legal Expert of Transparency International Anti-corruption Center and Arthur Sakunts, Head of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office.
“A new Election Code has been adopted a number of times, but in my opinion, no election has so far been trustworthy on the part of society. The reason is much deeper. In Armenia the authority is not just an authority, it is a position, possession and impunity. You can change the Electoral Code as much as you wish, anyway, the way of thinking is still the same," says Avetik Ishkhanyan.
He believes that as long as the society cannot impose its rules of the game or reach a consensus with the authorities, the authorities of such mentality will not adopt the Code, which will theoretically force them to leave the power.
"The proportional representation system is one of the most basic issues. This creates plentiful opportunities for the criminals to act upon in the marzes, which yet again will produce the results as expected by the governing party," says Ishkhanyan.
Khosrov Harutyunyan disagrees, noting that "The authorities are mainly responsible for the organization and smooth flow of electoral process and public life, but it should also be stated that all political forces as well as the opposition, have no less important role in instilling confidence in the formation of an electoral tradition and electoral process."
According to Harutyunyan, there is a consensus on the most important issue. He notes that everybody agrees that the Electoral Code should contain such tools and systems for the organization of the electoral process, which should in fact enhance public confidence towards voting results.
"First of all it prevents double voting and our proposed system of electronic voter registration is aimed at achieving this. The second argument which we advocate and consider very important is that the whole process should be very transparent to the committee members, voters, proxies, observers and media so we could state, we have been overseeing the electoral process," emphasized Harutyunyan.
Heriknaz Tigranian disagrees, insisting that the proposed draft does not solve the problems put forward by the civil society (inking of fingers, divulging of signed voter lists, video shooting, etc.)
"On the other hand, we acknowledge, that by introducing electronic voting mechanism into this draft we do not exclude the possibility of double voting considering that the voters’ register is not a connected system across a single server and network. This means that voters’ databases are separate in different constituencies and there is no guarantee that the same person’s name is not written second or third time at different precincts’ voter lists," says Tigranyan.
According to Tigranian, this creates an opportunity to vote by an identification card in different polling stations of the country.
"In this case we cannot say that we exclude double voting, on the contrary, we are strengthening doubts concerning this draft. What problems we solve by Electronic registration, besides the fact that it becomes a financial burden on the state. It does not dispel any doubts concerning voter lists. Therefore, our suggestion is as follows: either the whole server should be unified, or simply this method should be given up," added Tigranyan.
Samvel Nikoyan welcomed the suggestion and came up with another one.
“If there is any concern over this issue, what can we do? There are international companies which make software, conduct an audit, let’s invite them, the government will cover these expenses. Let the international organization audit both the server and its operation, whereupon, under your supervision, participation of international organizations, opposition surveillance, each section will be separated from a whole. We are willing to discuss this," said Nikoyan.
Artur Sakunts noted that the main problem is that we have vast experience of 25 years, and people of Armenia do not trust the elections.
"We submitted our proposals to be incorporated in the draft but they haven’t been. They try to limit the prevention of electoral violations, registration of violations, grievance submitting mechanisms, particularly if observers have the right to appeal, to submit applications, now they only have the right to draw Chairman’s attention, saying that certain violation is taking place. But if the Chairman decides that the observer interferes with the work of the committee, the Chairman can put the issue to the vote and by 2/3 of the voting can remove the observer.
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