Armenia is standing at one of the most important crossroads since independence in 1991. The situation is dire: victorious in the 1994 liberation of Artsakh, but defeated by homegrown corruption, criminality, and incompetence, the people of Armenia are leaving their homeland in tens of thousands per year. Poverty is likely in excess of the official number of nearly 40 percent, and the economy shows no signs of growth. Unless profound systemic changes take place in the way the country is governed, Armenia will not survive another war or severe economic shock. Unfortunately, the proposed Constitutional changes are likely to make the matters even worse.
While current polls show an overwhelming support for the “No” vote, this will not stop the regime from attempting to falsify the final results. PFA expects the constitutional referendum to follow similar patterns of fraud that have plagued past presidential and parliamentary elections, as we have demonstrated in our reports.
As demonstrated in the outcome of the 2013 Presidential Election, the regime has a capacity to secure at least 850 thousand votes through a combination of approximately 500-550 thousand fraudulent votes (obtained via ballot stuffing, multiple and carousel voting, as well as intentional miscounting) and reliance on its 250-300 thousand loyal “Yes” voters, consisting mainly of government officials, police, army, and those employed by the oligarchs and their family members, who vote “Yes” regardless of own position/conviction. The regime needs only 638 or so thousand votes to pass the proposed amendments.
The chances of the opposing sides to counter this are very slim. Despite official figures, Armenia’s current population and number of people eligible to vote are unlikely to be more than 1.6 million and 1.2 million, respectively. After netting out the regime’s loyal “Yes” base and assuming a participation rate of 80 percent the opposition can at best secure 700 thousand votes. Therefore, striking down the referendum would require an unprecedented mobilization of opposition forces and civil society. PFA believes that most efforts should be directed at reducing fraud in its various forms. We, therefore, call on opposition forces to:
• Promote a “get out and vote!” campaign.
• Join efforts to set up an effective monitoring system (inside and outside of the polling stations) to limit all forms of fraud. To this end, select polling stations based on past fraud history and collaborate with friendly local civil society groups and international monitors to secure adequate manning/coverage of those stations.
• Promote an awareness campaign among the regime’s loyal “Yes” voters to explain that the carousel system can be defeated: a voter who is forced to engage in a carousel voting should invalidate the pre-marked ballot given to them by the current ruling regime before throwing it into the ballot box.
PFA believes that the constitutional amendments proposed by the regime in Armenia should not be adopted, as the amendments will only entrench those who have usurped democratic processes and exploited their positions and offices for their own gain. Armenia’s current Constitution states that “power belongs to people.” It is thus up to the citizens of Armenia—with the support of all Armenians worldwide who look to the homeland for inspiration and pride—to use this power in such a way so as to stop Armenia’s slide toward extreme underdevelopment and poverty, mass migration, and weak national security. The time to act is now.
PFA Executive Board