OSCE/ODIHR Interim Reports on Armenia’s and the EaP Countries’ General Elections: Comparative Analysis

In order to evaluate the European integration processes of the Republic of Armenia and compare the quality of the election processes with other countries of the region,  a comparative analysis of the preliminary reports on the general elections in Moldova and Georgia, i.e. the Eastern Partnership countries is presented (1st round of the presidential elections in Moldova was held on 30.10.2016, 1st round of parliamentary elections in Georgia – on 08.10.2016).

It should be noted that the statement on preliminary circumstances and conclusions is the result of joint activities of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCPA), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the European Parliament (EP). The evaluation was carried out to find out whether the elections meet the criteria of the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other international organizations.

Below is a comparative analysis.

 General comparison

As in case of Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, preliminary assessments refer to respect for the fundamental freedoms of people, but if in case of Armenia and Georgia it is said that the main freedoms were “mostly” respected, in case of Moldova, the notion of “mostly” is absent. In case of Georgia and Armenia, it was said about well-organized elections, which is not mentioned in the assessments for Moldova. Instead, the elections held in Georgia and Moldova are considered as “competitivl”, which is not the case for Armenia. In case of Armenia, as obstacles to the election, vote-buying, the pressure on public servants and employees of private companies, and the general lack of public confidence towards elections are mentioned. The report on Georgia refers to illegal propaganda and some incidents related to the use of violence, and in Moldova, the abuse of the administrative resources, as well as unbalanced coverage of the election campaign by the media.

Organization of elections

The interim reports on both Georgia and Armenia state that the Central Election Commission (CEC) acted transparently. In case of Moldova, it is noted that, despite the existence of a climate of mistrust in state institutions, the interlocutors of OSCE/ODIHR mostly trust the impartiality of the CEC, as well as lower-level electoral bodies. According to the report, the CEC of Moldova acted openly, in certain legal terms. In case of Georgia, the lack of clarity refers to the uncertainty of the legal category of electing the members of precinct election commissions (PECs), which gives rise to misinterpretation and causes concerns. In addition, it is said that the bias in the process of appointing members of commissions were at lower levels. In case of Armenia, there is also a reference to the bias in the PEC; the report also notes that the CEC was not consistent with complaints. In case of Moldova, although it is said that the technical aspects of elections were carried out professionally at all levels, nevertheless, certain decisions of the CEC were not clear and did not complicate certain aspects of the process.

Election campaign

In the reports on Moldova and Georgia, the election campaign was judged as controversial, in case of Armenia, such a definition is not available. In case of Armenia, it is noted that the rivals in general, although they were able to carry out the election campaign without restrictions, nevertheless, certain cases of violence were recorded in certain parts of the country. Individual cases of violence are also mentioned in the report on Georgia. The reports of all three countries refer to the use of administrative resources in election campaigns. As a positive example in the case of Armenia, it was said that many officials took leave to participate in the election campaign. As a negative side of the election campaign in Moldova, it is said that the registration of candidates was inconsistent, which had a negative impact on the equal opportunities of rivals. In case of Georgia, the confrontational positions of the two leading parties is mentioned as a drawback, which influenced the atmosphere of the elections. In case of Armenia, there is a talk of vote-buying, of pressure exerted on public servants, which has led to a lack of public confidence in the election processes.

Information coverage

The reports on elections in Armenia and Georgia emphasize the fact that the current legislative field guarantees media freedom. In case of Moldova, it is noted that the media is tightly linked to major political parties, which reduces political pluralism on television. In case of Georgia, it also  says that generally the media is polarized; at the same time it is noted that, on the whole, the level of pluralism in the country has increased. In the case of Armenia, it is emphasized that freedom of broadcasting media companies is limited to editorial interference. The reports on Georgia and Moldova also mention a noticeable partiality of the broadcasting media companies. In case of Armenia, it is stressed that there is no interference in the network freedom, and the Internet has contributed to the growth of political pluralism in the information field. In addition, it is noted that the Public Television evenly covered the opponents. In case of Georgia, it is stressed that, through debates, rivals have received a comprehensive and pluralistic platform for expressing their opinions. In case of Moldova, it is noted that it was not possible to achieve fair, balanced and impartial coverage of candidates’ election campaigns.

Appeals and complaint

As for the elections in Moldova and Georgia, reports indicate that appeals and complaints were addressed in a transparent way. Unlike Moldova, in case of Georgia, it is stressed that the absence of accelerated deadlines for the application of administrative measures against violations in elections, as well as the lack of resources for investigations limited the effectiveness of the process. In case of Moldova,  as a problem was mentioned  that the inconsistent interpretation of the law related to the withdrawal of candidates from registration has reduced the general credibility of the electoral bodies and the judiciary. In the case of Armenia, there is a talk of an existing lack of trust in the system of complaint solutions, as well as the lack of independence of the judiciary, electoral and law enforcement bodies. In case of Georgia, it is noted that many stakeholders stressed the need to continue reforms in the judicial system.

Liana Hovhannisyan