Hope restored – a good start for a new Armenia

March 15, 2019

Mikayel Ayvazyan and Nare Ghalamkaryan with their “I voted for the first time” pins in front of the American University of Armenia in Yerevan.

Nare Ghalamkaryan, 18, studies communications at the American University of Armenia. In spring of 2018, she took part in the “velvet revolution.” Later, in December of the same year, Nare voted in the early parliamentary elections. It was her first time casting a ballot.

Her peer, Mikayel Ayvazyan, is also a first-time voter. But unlike Nare, who grew up in Armenia, he is a member of the Armenian Diaspora. Even as he lived abroad, he kept himself informed about the ongoing developments in Armenia.

Both are happy to have participated in the democratic processes that swept through Armenia and culminated with the election last year, and hope that change will follow. “For too long Armenians went to vote and their expectations were not fulfilled,” said Nare. “These elections were different. The voices of Armenians were heard, and the results are credible.”

The objective of carrying out a transparent electoral processes was high on the agenda of the international community in Armenia. At the request of the government, the European Union, Governments of Germany, United Kingdom, and Sweden agreed to provide electoral assistance to the authorities in holding early parliamentary elections. The idea was not only to assist in holding transparent elections, but to also further strengthen capacities of electoral management bodies in the country.

Due to its proven track record in supporting electoral processes worldwide, UNDP was tasked with implementing electoral support in Armenia, a major component of its governance and democratic institution-building activities.

When asked about the past, Nare responded:

“If someone would have offered me a future in a different country just one year ago, I would have left in an instant. Now I feel that Armenia is safer. I can trust the new government and its institutions more.”

People voting in Armenia's parliamentary election last year.

To ensure the transparency of the electoral process, the UNDP initiative installed web cameras and live-streamed the polling and counting procedures on Election Day. The project also deployed 4,000 voter authentication devices (VADs) and 4,000 operators in all polling centers to maximize transparency and build confidence.

When talking about his experience as a voter, Mikayel said, “The atmosphere in the polling center was very welcoming. The staff did not rush anybody through the process, instead they explained me and others each step of the voting procedure in a very friendly manner.”

After dropping his vote into the ballot box, Mikayel received a pin that read, “I voted for the first time.”

“Yes, we voted for the first time ever. But actually, many Armenians of all ages and walks of life were offered a real choice for the first time.” Nare adds, “Now, hope is restored.”

Despite the positive feedback from Armenian citizens and the international community on the last elections, a lot of work has to be done. In the post-electoral period, UNDP, together with the Central Election Commission, will develop an e-learning platform to provide on-line access to the polling and counting procedures for polling agents and all interested stakeholders.   

As the high-level representatives of the international community in Armenia stated prior to the elections, in a long-term perspective, credible, transparent and participatory electoral processes will also enhance Armenia’s stability and economic development. 

Editor's Note: If you found this story interesting, also check out: The grass is greener in Armenia.