With the generous support of the European Union and the Governments of the US, UK, Germany as well as Armenia, the UNDP Support to Election Process in Armenia (SEPA) project successfully procured 4,000 Voter Authentication Devices (VADs) which were deployed in 1997 polling stations across the country on April 2 National Assembly Election. Shortly after this national election, on May 14, 2017 the residents of Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, headed to the polls to elect a new City Council for a four-year term.
The Central Electoral Commission of Armenia (CEC) took the decision to implement the voter authentication process in 474 polling stations during the 14 May local elections, although the Electoral Code provides that after April 2 National Assembly elections the voter authentication process could be next implemented starting from September 2017. The CEC took this decision considering the level of trust generated by the deployment of VADs during April’s national election and to strengthen the capacity of the Commission in managing the process.
With the support of SEPA Advisors the software and the voter authentication procedures were updated to meet the local election requirements. The CEC conducted a refresher training for VAD operators also with the support of the SEPA Training Advisors. To continue increasing voter awareness on technical and other procedural novelties the CEC in cooperation with SEPA Voter Education team, produced as many as 150.000 voter education booklets, 500 sets of posters, 2 TV and 3 Radio spots.
The turnout on May 14 was 40,99 % of the eligible electorate, or 345,226 of the total 842,151 eligible voters. Female turnout stood at 56.36%. 8,259 ballots were declared invalid (2.4%). The ruling Republican Party of Armenia won the largest number of votes, 71.25% or 46 seats; the Way-Out Alliance came second with 21% or 14 seats and the newly established Apricot Country Party gained 7.75% or 5 seats.
The only international observation mission during the 14 May local elections- the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe assessed positively the overall conduct of the elections and noted that they visited some 100 polling stations (out of 474 open on election day) “where the VADs were functioning smoothly throughout the whole voting procedure.
[…] The amended Electoral Code and the new technical measures have certainly improved the situation inside the polling stations.” The Congress observers also commended the work of the election administration within polling stations, including the specialists operating the VADs. However, the Mission considered the 40.99% turnout an “alarming sign which showed the high level of political apathy and called to address its root causes”.
SEPA effectively advanced election technology in Armenia contributing to improved election administration in line with the Armenian government’s commitment to organize credible and transparent elections.