Armenian Constitutional Reform 2015: A Digest (Updated)

12

We will update the information here with relevant news, including new reports or statements by observers and authorities below.

On December 6, Armenian citizens turned out to vote in a referendum on a constitutional reform proposed by President Serzh Sargsyan that would turn the country into a parliamentary republic. 

Here is a review of what happened. We will make updates here as relevant information becomes available.

Results

The measure passed overwhelmingly, with 63.35% voting “Yes” to the reforms. The overall voter turnout was the lowest since 2008: 1,303,466 people cast their ballots, about 51.1% of out of over 2.5 million registered voters.

Alleged Violations and Government Response

Violations were alleged at several polling places, mostly in Yerevan. The Prosecutor-General’s office designated a section of its website (link in Armenian) where it reported allegations by media outlets and NGOs and included information regarding any investigations that were launched.

As of December 8, the Prosecutor-General’s office said it has received 409 allegations, of which 323 are currently being investigated and 80 of which have been sent to the police for further investigations; also, six criminal cases have been opened (Armenian).

The police, also, are concurrently investigating 234 allegations of misconduct which were either received through their voting day hotline or reported in the media.

Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan has promised that all people who are found to have committed fraud during the vote will be held accountable.

During and after the vote, there have been some false media reports. One was about a supposed shooting at a polling place as well as a claim by Hraparak Newspaper – which was copied by other news outlets (link in Armenian) – that the names of the family murdered by a Russian soldier in Gyumri were present on voter rolls. Both the police (link in Armenian) and Prosecutor-General’s office repudiated the claims.

Observers’ Opinions

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), not affiliated with the European Union, reported that there were about 700 observers, joined by 700 journalists, to monitor 500 precincts. There were 1,997 precincts in total.

The EPDE observer mission report on the referendum was overwhelmingly critical and appeared shortly after the vote was completed. According to its website, the organization is a group of civil society organizations “supporting or conducting citizens’ election observation” and counts among its members in Armenia  Transparency International’s local chapter and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor.

With a differing perspective, the observer mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a group of formerly Soviet states, called the elections “open, free, and exemplary.”

The United States’ statement from its embassy in Armenia commended the government and people for their “peaceful conduct” during the referendum, which took place after “an open debate.” It was restrained in noting “credible allegations of electoral irregularities” while stating that the cases “need to be fully investigated.”

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have not yet released any complete reports but PACE made a statement where the allegations of violations were noted. They were critical of the Armenian authorities, saying they must mention problems many of them already mentioned in “previous PACE, Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.”

 

Protests

Opposition groups called the elections fraudulent immediately after the close of the polls and called for protest. Led by a group calling themselves New Armenia Public Salvation Front, they announced a gathering Liberty Square on Sunday night, as well as Monday night; neither produced large crowds.

New Armenia is composed of many familiar faces on the Armenian political scene including Raffi Hovannisian, Zhirayr Sefilyan, and Andrias Ghukasyan. While speaking from the podium, Sefilyan, a member of PreParliament, yelled “death to the regime”

Hovannisian, the former presidential candidate who lost to President Sargsyan in the 2013 election, tore his ballot before placing it in the ballot box earlier in the day. He was one of the speakers and again called for Sargsyan’s resignation, as in the past.

After Sunday’s protest, a march ensued through the streets. Protesters were heard singing Kini Leetz, a song about the assassination about Talaat Pasha, the chief organizer of the Armenian Genocide; they replaced the portions of the song where Talaat Pasha is mentioned with Serzh Sargsyan.

Numbers

The number of eligible voters in the country was 2,567,047, of which 2,547,918 were on voter rolls and able to vote on December 6. A total of 1,303,466 votes were cast which makes up 51.1% of voters able to vote. Excluding nullified ballots, 1,247,215 votes were counted.

The number of “Yes” votes was 825,851 (63.35%) and the number of “No” votes was 421,600 (32.34%) . There were 53,332 nullified ballots.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Levon Zurabyan of the Armenian National Congrees (HAK), claims that only 800,000 people actually voted and that 600,000 of those voted “No.” Zurabyan’s claim, if true, would mean that there were over fraudulent 503,000 votes counted. RFE/RL’s report did not elaborate where Zurabyan got the information for his claim. Zurabyan also urged the Central Election Commission to annul the vote.

President’s Message

Following the referendum, President Sargsyan made a speech where he recognized the differences between various sides in the constitutional reform process while saying that there should be an “inclusive discussion” to update the electoral code to make it “faultless.”

Update (14 December 2015): The United States Embassy in Yerevan released an “additional statement” where it commended the Armenian authorities for “fully” reporting and investigating credible allegations while saying that those implicated in wrongdoing may be unable to participate in “Embassy programs or activities.”

Update (11 December 2015): Armenia’s Human Rights Defender, Ombudsman Karen Andreasyan, urged the President, Prosecutor-General, and elections authorities to carefully investigate alleged violations. He said in his letter that the Ombudsman’s office received 67 complaints while noting that many more have been alleged elsewhere. (link in Armenian)

Update (10 December 2015): The European Union’s delegation to Armenia issued a statement saying, “We urge the Armenian authorities to fully investigate in a transparent manner credible fraud allegations.” They also said that, in the event the constitution is confirmed, a new electoral code should be adopted in line with the recommendations of the OSCE ODIHR.

Update (10 December 2015): The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media urged authorities to ensure journalists’ rights to report freely and safely.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone

About Author

William Bairamian

William is the publisher and editor of The Armenite. His years in politics led him to the fourth estate. He is a graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and UCLA.

12 Comments

  1. “After Sunday’s protest, a march ensued through the streets. Protesters were heard singing Kini Leetz, a song about the assassination about Talaat Pasha, the chief organizer of the Armenian Genocide; they replaced the portions of the song where Talaat Pasha is mentioned with Serzh Sargsyan.”

    Because equating a mass murderer with the President of your country is normal. Imbeciles.

    • They are imbeciles indeed and they are also doing the work of Armenia’s enemies. Therefore, they are also traitors. The situation we are in today is a direct result of Yerevan’s “complimentary politics,” the idea that Armenia needs to be open to the Western world while remaining allied to Russia. As a result, for the past twenty-five years Armenian officials have been allowing Western interests to setup shop in the country and systematically sow the seeds of Russophobia. Armenia today has hundreds of Western-funded politicians, activists and NGOs. Ukraine, Serbia and Egypt are good examples of what happens when you allow such entities to proliferate in a developing country.

  2. Hovinnisian tore his ballot before he inserted it into the box? How does that even remotely make sense as a notable and useful protest in opposition? Where did this fever to protest everything come from? It’s no wonder officials take these protests as a joke. It’s no wonder there seems to be carelessness in officials. Damn if you do, damned if you don’t.

    • The fever in question comes from the country’s Western-financed political opposition as well as groups of Diasporan Armenians (primarily from the Western world and the Middle East) who are sent to Armenia to carryout political activism on behalf of Western interests. Ever since Yerevan cracked down on Levon Petrosian’s color revolution attempt in 2008, Western powers and their lemmings throughout Armenian society have been waging an information war against Armenia on a 24/7 basis. This is the reason why there is so much hopelessness and political apathy in Armenia today. Armenia’s so-called “oligarchs” (who are not nearly as bad as those that exists in most other countries on earth today) are not the problem, the problem is in the way in which Armenia’s Western-led political opposition presents Armenia’s natural growing pains. Due to the relentless psy-ops taking place against Armenia in recent years, the most popular slogan in the country today is «երկիրը երկիր չի»: Observing the political opposition’s rhetoric about Armenia, one cannot help but get the feeling that Armenia is hell on earth. For the average folk, if Armenia is hell on earth, than anyplace else should be heaven. The psy-ops against Armenia (as well as certain genetic/cultural traits found in Armenians today) is essentially why Armenians are seeking to abandon Armenia en masse.

      • You don’t think they are abandoning Armenia in mass because their economic situation is not what they want it to be? You think it’s the “psy-ops” that makes them want to leave?
        Every country in the world has developed because they’ve had freedom to trade. If you are able to move goods out of your country to be sold in other countries and other people can bring their goods to your country to sell then you will prosper and develop. This is the formula to prosperity.
        Average Armenian citizens do not have this freedom when it comes to a large number of sectors. I’ll give you a few examples.
        My uncle tried to bring in sugar from Iran a few years ago. He was stopped at the border, whatever he paid for the sugar was given to him at the border, his shipment was taken from him, and he was told to never try to bring sugar into Armenia again.
        One of my friends tried to bring sunflower seeds in from the Georgian border. Same thing!
        I’ve been living in Armenia for 2 years now. I’ve tried to start several businesses. Some have worked, some have not, but one thing that is a constant problem is Armenia’s government. They come in, find “violations”, charge me several hundred thousand AMD, then the guy will offer me a way to pay through a one time “cash payment” of 20,000 AMD to resolve the problem.
        This is the system at work in Armenia. I still live here and love every minute, but to say the problem with Armenia is “psy-ops” is just wrong. The problem is a lack of freedom, freedom to trade, freedom to do business.

        • Idiot, if you look closely you will see that Uzbeks and Ukrainians live in much worst conditions than Armenians, but you don’t see them fleeing their homelands en masse. Most nations on earth are worst off than Armenia, but its the Armenian that’s most susceptible to fleeing. The reason for this are two fold: Western psy-ops and cultural/genetic flaws. I suggest you stop acting like a gypsy and stop listening to the rhetoric coming out of Armenia’s Western-financed political opposition.

          • If the Armenian people are more susceptible genetically to fleeing, that would be an incredible discovery. Have you read a study on it? I would love it if you could send me a link to that study.

        • It’s actually very easy to start a small business in Armenia. When I was in Yerevan, I saw small businesses everywhere and none of those giant multinational corporations from the (except for a couple). It was a beautiful sight.

          It’s only when you try to sell those commodities (like sugar or coffee beans) will you get into trouble. It’s those things which the oligarchs have monopolized and it’s the same in the Western world. You can’t just sell sugar or coffee beans in the US because they are monopolized by the US oligarchs.

          • That’s not true. There are hundreds of small suppliers of coffee beans.
            But you are right about starting a business in Armenia. I have found it to be very easy.

  3. BERT:
    .
    Will respond to your post in two parts.
    Don’t know you, but from your post, you seem to care about Armenia.
    However, unfortunately, your post also repeats, perhaps inadvertently, misinformation and disinformation about Armenia.
    .
    { If you are able to move goods out of your country to be sold in other countries and other people can bring their goods to your country to sell then you will prosper and develop}
    .
    You are quite right: a very astute observation. But don’t you see that by your own statement you are putting your finger on the core problem facing RoA ? The “evil” oligarchs are the least of RoA’s problems in its inability to move goods freely in and out. As you should know, RoA is 100% blockaded by Turkey and Azerbaijan: blockading movement of commercial goods is an act of war by Turkey.
    Second: up until recently, under the anti-Armenian Saakashvili, transport of goods via Georgia was made deliberately cumbersome and expensive. Don’t know if things have changed much, but many Georgians have an irrational dislike, bordering on hatred, of Armenia and Armenians. And that sentiment is spread throughout their bureaucracy.It was no different in Soviet times.
    Third: up until recently the only other outlet to the outside world, Iran, was under severe sanctions by the criminal International “community”, which also affected RoA movement of commercial goods through Iran.
    So everything that has physical weight and mass that Armenia needs to move in and out becomes very expensive and hard. And despite the bad rap oligarchs have gotten, they have the connections and the ability to bring in important commodities into RoA.
    And as ԴՐՕ wrote, there are monopolies in US in all sorts of industries. But because the country is so huge and so wealthy, it not noticed. And things were very different say a hundred years ago in US. Robber barons and all that.
    .
    Next.
    .
    The Editor wrote a rebuttal to a story about a small business allegedly being harassed by RoA authorities.
    I highly recommend you read with an open mind.
    http://thearmenite.com/2015/09/how-to-rip-doing-business-in-armenia-the-green-bean-william-bairamian/
    But I want to point out particular comments by an individual that refutes the widely disseminated lie that it is difficult to start a business in Armenia because of oligarchs: Todd Farbacher.
    I paste some of his comments from FB that the gentleman links in his post:
    .
    [Todd Fabacher Yes, it is true I am sure there are issues in Armenia. I also opened a biz there and just got audited but the tax official who seemed to be looking for a payoff, but I said NO WAY. But I also opened a cafe in Brooklyn and had so many problems also. We have to get 14 permits and it took 6 months to get the doors open. One day the inspector walked in a the cook was not wearing a hat and it was $1500 fine. Plus we filled out the workman’s comp insurance wrong and it was another $1000 fine, all without warnings. So yes, it could get better in Armenia, but try opening in Brooklyn. We closed after a year because it was just too much trouble and no way to stop the losses]
    .
    [Todd Fabacher Agree, just saying it is difficult all over. Business close here in NYC all the time because they can’t make it. Yes the government is more helpful here and they do not go out of their way to make it more difficult. But there are roadblocks everywhere. By the way we lost $75K before we closed and yes we had to spend $55K just on government approved commercial cookware that was 3 times the price of stuff I could have purchased in the store. Also the cost to open here is so high it stops people from doing it and no it is not that easy to get investors, so you have to put up your own money.]
    .
    [Todd Fabacher I do know that the new tech companies get 3 years tax holiday. Man that is HUGE. The other reason I wrote this is that I have opened businesses everywhere Europe, China, India and they all had issues, but nowhere I have done business and seen people complain more than Armenia. It has become a national past time and part of the culture. Just saying as a non-Armenian business investor in the country].
    .
    [Todd Fabacher I did…We opened one in Gyumri and are doing great]
    [Todd Fabacher Digital Pomegranate and I have been VERY happy with the investment. We are foreign owned, so we did not qualify for the tax break. Our goal is to have 50-75 programmers by the end of next year. We are doing some incredible stuff in Armenia.]
    .
    Takeaway comment: “…but nowhere I have done business and seen people complain more than Armenia. It has become a national past time and part of the culture.” (…aided and abetted by multitudes of foreign owned disinformation and anti-Armenian propaganda outlets operating in Armenia, e.g. Lragir.am, Azatutyun.am, etc)
    .
    I will address the bogus {“abandoning Armenia in mass because their economic situation is not what they want it to be?”} statement in next post.

  4. Some pertinent quotes to ponder:

    “What Armenia needs is a sociopolitical evolution and not a Western financed revolution. Rome was not built in a day. Was the Western world born this developed, this progressive or this wealthy, or did it have to travel a very long, bumpy path to get to where it is today? The Western world, including the US, took hundreds years to reach where it is today. In fact, the Western world is where it is today not due to “Democracy” but due to numerous wars of plunder, grand theft, genocide and human exploitation”

    “Similar to how the Vatican relentlessly pushed its version of Christianity upon “Godless” societies for many centuries, Washington has in similar fashion been pushing its version of a new religion known as Democracy/Globalism upon the political infidels of the world in recent times. We are all expected by the apostles and proselytizers of the cult of Democracy and Globalism to offer sacrifices to their holy doctrine because their god, the almighty Dollar is omnipresent; their only chosen one, the Zionist state of Israel is omnipotent; and if we dare to displease this modern cult, its wrath shall be unleashed upon us”

    “Elections in the US is basically about two groups of well connected people competing for the empire’s control panels. There has not been “free and fair” elections in the US for generations. The system is rigged to be a two party show. Democrats and Republicans are ultimately two sides of the same coin. Every four years the financial/corporate elite in the US decide what shirt the sheeple will wear, and the sheeple are given the “democratic” choice of picking between two colors. The US political system is like a two ring circus managed by a ringmaster that the audience does not get to see. US presidents are ‘appointed’ to be elected by the sheeple. US presidents are tasked with being the spokesmen or salesmen for special interests running the show behind-the-scenes in the American empire. The US is being run as if it is a multi-national corporation in which the American citizenry is its work force”

    “A little over century ago America’s robber barons (e.g. Carnegies, Rockefellers, Morgans, Goulds, Vanderbilts, Du Ponts, Warburgs, etc) used their immense fortunes to buy into the American political system, forever blurring the line between politics and business. These oligarchs used their powerful influences to impact the making of political legislation. The political system in the US was manipulated by America’s oligarchs to serve their businesses and to preserve their immense wealth. Although it has been in a decline in recent years, the American middle class essentially grew as a result of feeding on the crumbs that were falling off the lavish banquet tables of the nation’s super wealthy”

    “The Western world has severe forms of corruption. It can be argued that Western corruption is by-far the most egregious, albeit more nuanced and/or sophisticated. The main difference between corruption in the West and corruption in a place like Armenia is that corruption in the developed West is strictly reserved for the political/financial elite, whereas in an underdeveloped nation like Armenia all layers of society can engage in it. Moreover, Armenia is a tiny country, therefore any form of wrong doing can immediately be seen or felt by all. Through legislation, the practice of corruption in the Western world has evolved to become fully institutionalized. Therefore, in the West, institutionalized corruption is not for the common folk. Institutionalized corruption in the US, for instance, is reserved for the American empire’s elites (e.g. military industrial complex, Zionist/Jewish groups, pentagon, oil industry, Federal Reserve, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals industry, etc)”

    “Democracy for an adolescent nation like Armenia can prove fatal. As the events of early 2008 clearly revealed, Armenians are not yet politically mature enough to actually be given the responsibility of electing their leadership. We have seen the destruction democracy has visited upon undeveloped or underdeveloped nations throughout the world. The destructive nature of democracy on underdeveloped nations may be why some nations on Washington’s black list are being prescribed a very heavy dose of it these days. A nation like Armenia, just coming out of under a thousand years or Asiatic/Islamic/Bolshevik rule simply cannot have the proper national institutions or the mindsets with which to flirt with a dangerous and potentially destructive political process like democracy”

Leave A Reply

Join Us! We'll Only Send You Good Stuff.