EU Expects ‘Best Elections Ever’ In Armenia

By: Sargis Harutyunyan

The European Union expects the upcoming parliamentary elections in Armenia to be the most democratic in the country’s history, a senior EU diplomat said recently in Yerevan.

Piotr Switalski, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, said the new Armenian government is committed to ensuring the freedom and fairness of the snap elections scheduled for December 9.

“We believe that now in the new Armenia we have a totally new political climate,” Switalski told reporters.

“So we are looking forward to these elections and we are gearing for the best elections ever in Armenia,” he said. “Don’t let me down please.”

Switalski spoke as the EU as well as three of its member states — Britain, Germany and Sweden — allocated 2.9 million euros ($3.3 million) in financial aid aimed at facilitating the proper conduct of the polls. The EU envoy and senior diplomats from those states signed an agreement to that effect with Armenia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.

Mirzoyan praised the EU’s “sincere commitment to and faith in the holding of democratic elections in Armenia.” “Needless to say, free, fair and democratic elections are the cornerstone of the sustainable development of our country,” he said at a joint news conference with the European diplomats.

The EU already provided $7 million in the run-up to Armenia’s last parliamentary elections held in April 2017. The money was mainly spent on the purchase of electronic voter authentication devices and web cameras that were installed in all polling stations.

The equipment was specifically meant to prevent multiple voting, one of the most serious forms of fraud that had marred past Armenian elections. Western observers did not report significant instances of multiple voting in the 2017 polls. They cited instead “credible information about vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.”

The fresh EU aid will also be used for voter identification and web cameras. The Armenian government will provide an additional $700,000 for the same purpose.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian discussed the upcoming elections with Switalski and the Yerevan-ambassadors of EU member states at a meeting held on Tuesday. Pashinian told them that the vote will mark an important milestone in Armenia’s democratization. He said his government, which took office as a result of this spring’s “velvet revolution,” has already made “considerable progress” on that front.

Switalski described the meeting with Pashinian as “very productive.” The EU is ready for “elevating relations with Armenia to a new level” after the December 9 vote, he said, adding that that could mean greater economic assistance to Yerevan.

The early elections, which Pashinian’s alliance is expected to win by a landslide, will come one year after the signing of a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Armenia and the EU. The 350-page agreement commits the Armenian authorities to carrying out political reforms and gradually “approximating” Armenian economic laws and regulations to those of the EU.

Just like the former Armenian government, Pashinian has pledged to seek closer ties with the EU while maintaining Armenia’s membership in Russian-led alliances of ex-Soviet states.