Elections and Referenda

Elections have been in the focus of ELA’s attention since the 2012 parliamentary elections.

In April 2012, ELA jointly with its British partners trained about 30 journalists in how to cover elections in an impartial, objective and balanced manner. Later that year during the 2012 May parliamentary elections ELA offered legal assistance and advice to journalists whose free speech rights were violated in the electoral process. ELA’s lawyers also submitted an application to the RA Constitutional Court seeking the latter to annul the results of elections in one of the constituencies. Although the results of elections in that particular constituency were not annulled, for the first time in the history of Armenia in election-related cases the Constitutional Court declared the results of one polling station inaccurate. This was the polling station monitored by ELA’s members.

In the second half of the year ELA mobilised other civil society representatives to work on the amendments to the electoral legislation. The amendments were later submitted to and discussed with the relevant stakeholders, including government officials with a view to having the parliament adopt the amendments prior to the presidential elections appointed in February 2013.

In February 2013 ELA observed the presidential elections in 14 polling stations in Ararat region. For the first time in the history of election-monitoring in Armenia ELA’s new methodology of election observation was introduced.Its essential elements were observers working in pairs to monitor polling stations from the moment of opening until closure, evidence-based reporting of electoral violations and launch of the process of post-electoral complaints to the bodies of electoral administration. Included among the observers trained and supervised by ELA back in 2013 were Lena Nazaryan (Vice-Speaker of Parliament), NarekBabayan (Head of the Committee for State Property Management), ZhannaAleksyanyan (Journalist/Human rights defender), ZaruhiHovhannisyan (Human rights defender), TsovinarNazaryan (Media expert), SonaAyvazyan (Executive Director of Transparency International Armenia), ArtakHambardzumyan (Journalist/RFE), Anna Shahnazaryan (Environmental activist), etc. On the basis of the findings of ELA’s monitoring mission the RA Constitutional Court annulled the results of voting in one of the polling stations monitored by ELA. ELA’s efforts inspired a number of civil society and Diaspora actors to mobilise efforts to monitor future national elections in Armenia within a collation called the Citizen Observer Initiative (creater later that year).

Within the COI ELA mobilised more than 250 observers from Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora around the task of monitoring the 2013 Yerevan Municipality Elections. Later that year ELA was awarded the Universal Rights Award in recognition of its outstanding efforts in defending citizens’ electoral rights.

In 2014-2015, ELA as part of the Citizen Observer Initiative monitored most of the local self-government elections held in Armenia. In all of these monitoring efforts ELA promoted the methodology of election-observation introduced by ELA in February 2013 – polling-station monitoring from A to Z, evidence-based reporting of the incidents of electoral fraud, and launching of the process of post-electoral complaints.

In 2015, as part of the COI, ELA monitored the Constitutional Referendum in December 2015. The mission deployed more than 1000 observers covering around 522 polling stations throughout Armenia. On the E-day and the days following it ELA submitted over 100 post-electoral complaints to election administration bodies and the courts.

In the summer of 2016 the Citizen Observer Initiative received another Universal Rights Award for its efforts in defending the citizens’ electoral rights during the constitutional referendum of December 2015.

In 2016 a process of electoral reform was launched by the Government and ELA played a key role in the negotiations between the ruling, non-ruling parties and the civil society organisations within the 4+4+4 format. Although the negotiations failed in the beginning due to the Government’s uncompromising approach to all the recommendations made by civil society and non-ruling parties related to electoral legislation, later, under the effective pressure of international partners and local CSOs the Government agreed to a number of important amendments to the electoral legislation, the most important of them being the declassification of the signed voter-lists. ELA contributed its legal expertise in the process of negotiations over the agreement on the key amendments to the electoral legislation signed later that year between the ruling and non-ruling parties. It would be fair to state that had ELA not been involved in the process the negotiations would have yielded zero results.

In 2017 ELA led the biggest election observation effort in the history of independent election-monitoring in Armenia. It deployed nearly 3000 observers to more than 1522 polling stations in almost all the constituencies of Armenia. ELA’s team of trainers trained more than 4500 citizens to become observers for the 2017 parliamentary elections. ELA’s lawyers trained about 40 lawyers in electoral law and processes. ELA’s experts prepared handbooks, observer guidelines, video-trainings and presentations (see www.citizenobserver.am) to assist anyone interested in electoral law and process to gain in depth knowledge in election-monitoring for the 2017 parliamentary elections and in the future. ELA also supervised the group of lawyers engaged in post-electoral complaints. Under ELA’s effective supervision the lawyers submitted over 400 complaints to electoral commissions and nearly 100 complaints to courts.

ELA also won 1 case in the Armenian Constitutional Court by virtue of which one of the provisions of the RA Electoral Code restricting the free speech rights of the media and media representatives was found unconstitutional.

Within the COI ELA continued its monitoring effort and monitored the snap 2018 September Yerevan Municipality and the 2018 December snap parliamentary elections.