By Zaven Kalayjian and Sassoon Kosian
On February 18, 2013, citizens of Armenia for the sixth time since independence went to the polls to elect a president. The ruling Republican Party of Armenia officials and the incumbent himself promised to hold elections that not only would meet the “European standards”, but would also be the best elections in Armenia since independence. While in some areas noticeable progress was recorded (including with respect to candidates’ right to freely conduct their campaign, balance media coverage as well as the orderly voting process2), our analysis would indicate there is sufficient grounds to contest the outcome of the elections. This note discusses the conditions leading to the outcome and focuses on the election fraud and manipulations that the data suggests have been employed.
These elections were different from previous ones in several aspects. They were considered not very competitive from the start, since 3 out of 4 opposition parties present in the parliament (i.e. Armenian National Congress, Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun, and Prosperous Armenia Party) refrained from nominating a presidential candidate or supporting any other registered candidates. In such a context, the incumbent Serge Sargsyan felt self-assured, and his supporters conducted relaxed campaigns and spared no positive words about their opponents. However, his campaign did not go all that smooth. While speaking off the script, Sargsyan made a number of mistakes which quickly turned into public relations disasters.
The loudest criticism of his policies of the past five years came not from competing candidates but from the social networks, most notably Facebook. It gradually became clear that the resentment within the Armenian society against a potential second five-year term by Serge Sargsyan was strong and growing. During the final days of the campaign, the situation started to change while reports about vote bribing and intimidation became more frequent.