Over the last few months, Armenia has been very high on the European Union’s foreign policy agenda. In terms of our bilateral relations, we signed and are provisionally implementing the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA). This is now our roadmap for cooperation which includes strong reform support and financial assistance. These snap elections are therefore a major democratic milestone and a test for the further deepening of EU-Armenian relations. That is why the European Parliament is very attentive to developments in Armenia. This is why we are here today.
As part of the International Election Observation Mission, the European Parliament fully endorses the preliminary findings and conclusions of this mission. I take this opportunity to thank my colleagues from the other parliamentary assemblies and to commend the excellent work by Urszula and her team from the ODIHR, during this mission. I would also like to thank the EU Delegation in Yerevan for their support.
In addition to the comments made by my colleagues, I would like to highlight 4 aspects:
- These are snap elections. There was therefore limited time for parties to campaign but also for the Central Electoral Commission to organise the process and other bodies to scrutinize the implementation of the relevant law. So let me highlight the very good performance of the CEC in this difficult context.
- In particular, we are very happy to observe a major drop in electoral malpractice. Such practices do not disappear completely overnight. But it is clear that the amendments to the Criminal Code, the educational campaigns and the resolve of key leaders to fight these are having a positive impact. Continued efforts are needed to make these electoral malpractices a cultural relic of the past, as well as to put an end to intolerant rhetoric.
- Many of our comments refer to the legislative framework, to be precise: to issues such as campaign financing, citizenship requirements, the management of voters’ lists and the strengthening of women’s political participation. These need to be addressed through amendments to the current legislation. We hope such amendments will remain a priority for the Armenian government and National Assembly and that any reform is carried out in an inclusive way, with the involvement of both opposition and civil society. Of course, the international community is ready to keep providing expert support.
- Finally, let me now address civil society engagement in the electoral process. The detailed work of such organisations can be commended. And it is refreshing to hear, for the first time, so many civil society representatives agreeing with representatives of both the authorities and most political parties on the way the elections took place. But I must however regret that one party abused the access given to civic observers by recruiting and paying what I will call “non-observing observers” in order obtain extra accreditations for their representatives.
Let me conclude by underlining that these elections were very well organised, with minimal irregularities and free of pressure on voters. I am very happy that, as a result, public trust in the electoral process was high. So we congratulate the Armenian authorities and participants in these elections and encourage the government and National Assembly to further improve the legislation ahead of future elections. The EU including the European Parliament will continue to assist in this process. This is in line with our commitments as part of the deepening of EU-Armenia relations. This is for the benefit of all Armenian citizens.