How Armenia became a parliamentary republic
Armenia summed up the results of 6th of December referendum on constitutional reforms, which means a transition from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government. According to the CEC, 1,296,368 voters participated in the referendum, which is 50.51% of the total number of citizens who have voting rights. 63.35% of the citizens voted for the reform. 32.35% of the participants voted against.
Representatives of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) assured that the referendum was held in the framework of the law and in accordance with international standards. According to the head of the parliamentary faction of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, Vahram Baghdasaryan, there was a minimum number of violations and claims by the opposition of mass violations are unfounded.
The referendum and the results announced by the CEC caused protests from the opposition, which accused the government of massive fraud and abuse of administrative resources. Among the numerous violations of the law, the 'No' front names cases of multiple voting, attempts to steal ballots, threats and pressure against proxies and observers from the 'No' front, ballot-stuffing, 'unexpected' blackouts, after which the number of ballots in favor of the changes increased, and preventing journalists from working.
The 'No' front has a huge database of materials which prove the illegal actions of the authorities. According to the chairman of the propaganda headquarters of the 'No' front, Levon Zurabyan, the opposition has such a large amount of evidence of fraud during the referendum that it will need a few days for the selection, analysis and preparation of the materials to send them to the headquarters of the Central Electoral Commission. In addition, the opposition plans to protest against the results of the referendum in the Constitutional Court.
According to research conducted by the opposition on referendum day, voter turnout couldn't have exceeded 40%. On the basis of indicators of activity the voting results can be seen of which areas and localities reflect the real state of affairs, and which show us the active work of the falsification machine. For example, voter turnout in the northern regions of the country did not even reach 40%, and even according to official figures the majority of voters in this region voted against the constitutional changes. But the government failed to win not only in the second and third cities of Armenia, Gyumri and Vanadzor, Yerevan also voted against the constitutional changes. However, according to the opposition, the voter turnout, which amounted to 45.93%, was raised artificially with the help of additional fabricated lists. Meanwhile, in some cities this figure exceeded 50% and even reached 60%, for example in Artashat.
According to the representatives of the 'No' front, if the real activity was less than 40%, then 1.3 million people cannot have gone to the polling stations, but only about 800 thousand could vote, and 600 thousand of them voted against and only 150-200 thousand approved the constitutional changes.
"Serzh Sargsyan has registered his victory by 'painting the numbers', but he won't manage it. The authorities used all their resources to crush the will of the people. The victory of the 'No' front is a victory of the spirit," a representative of the 'No' front and the Armenian National Congress, Aram Manukyan, said.
Even based on the participation of 800 thousand people in the referendum, it's not such a bad number for a permanently impoverished society, for a country whose citizens continue to emigrate, trying to get a job. Many citizens showed remarkable consistency on December 6th – even those who were taken to the polls in minibuses voted against, and those who had promised the local authorities to vote for the reform rejected the constitutional changes.
The discontent of the population with the Government's economic policy and difficult social situation has created difficulties for the authorities, they cannot operate in the usual format anymore of buying the votes of the citizens for the payment of debts for utilities or delivery to the polls by bus.
Another feature of the referendum held on 6th December was the passivity of some major counterfeiters, who are mostly concentrated in the regions. For the first time in many years, the voter turnout in the 'advanced' Syunik region barely exceeded 50%. Such data reflected the very essence of the problem – the referendum in the eyes of many of the authorities is a blurred concept, which is not aimed at the election of any political force or particular candidate.
The referendum did not receive the high ratings from the international observers, expected by the authorities. The PACE delegation pointed to inaccuracies in the voter lists, bribery and reports of multiple voting. The PACE mission said that the referendum on constitutional reform in Armenia "was not due to the needs of Armenian society, but due to political interests, and the referendum was perceived by many citizens as an expression of confidence in the government, not as a vote for change."
The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) representative, Lene Wetteland, stated that the results of this referendum do not reflect the will of the Armenian citizens, and this plebiscite cannot be considered legitimate.
All of this suggests that the processes around the referendum and its results will find their continuation in the protests and hearings.