I. INTRODUCTION A. Transitioning From "Them" to "Us'" B. Armenia's Transition to Democracy II. ARMENIA AFTER THE U.S.S.R. A. Geography and History of Armenia B. Post-Soviet Political Developments; Conflicts & Consequences C. Political Leaders and Assassins D. Apparent Progress III. DEMOCRACY IN ACTION? ARMENIA'S POST-SOVIET ELECTIONS A. Democracy and Elections B. Overview of Armenia's Post-Soviet Elections C. Post-Soviet Elections Violation Trends D. Theatrical Non-Reform Reform? E. Post-reform 2003 Election Violations F. Role of the International Community G. Implications of the 2003 Election Violations for Democracy in Armenia IV. ELECTORAL NARRATIVES A. Voting Armenian Style B. The Knock on the Door & Carousel Voting C. No Unchecked Ballots D. The Second Round: Observing the Vote E. The Second Round: Observing the Count V. THE RULE OF LAW: CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK AND THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY A. The Rule of Law B. Constitutional Framework and the Role of the Judiciary C. The 2005 Constitution--Theatrical Non-Reform Reform VI. THE JOKER IN THE PACK? A. Endogenous Suspects B. Exogenous Suspects VII. CONCLUSION VIII. APPENDIX
With smoke and mirrors the entertainer-magician creates images that thrill, delight, or confound the audience. (1)
In Armenia, the smoke and mirrors of shining words and the strategic adoption of progressive legislation hide the reality of stagnant democratization and rule of law reform that reflects a creeping authoritarianism (2) exemplified by the Russian Federation. (3)
In the deck of cards, the joker is the wild card--the unpredictable element that may trump all the other cards, and put the other players off balance--throwing, and perhaps winning, the game. (4)
Appearing and disappearing among the smoke and mirrors that project the image of Armenian democracy and rule of law reform is the joker which, to date, has blocked Armenia's transition.
The joker's identity is unknown and perhaps unknowable. Is it a cadre of power holders? Is it the hidden power behind the 1998 parliamentary assassinations? Or is it the psychological mindset of powerlessness and alienation, (5) bureaucratic paralysis and corruption lingering from the Soviet era? Is the joker the dominance of the Executive Branch enshrined in the post-Soviet Constitution, with its accompanying abasement of the Judiciary and Legislature? What of the intersection of the hopes and dreams of the Armenian Diaspora and the political power of its lobby with the reluctance of the Armenian power structure to concede power to the people?
A. Transitioning From "Them" to "Us"
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) officially dissolved in 1991, and its component republics were set free to make their own sovereign way in the world. (6) These are called transitional countries. (7) The depth and breadth of the contemplated transition is breathtaking in its scope. (8) "Transitional" describes a movement: from communism to capitalism and democracy; from command and control economies and dependence to the free market and independence; from repression and acceptance to freedom and questioning; from constituent part to autonomous whole; and from represented to representing. (9)
In other words, transitioning from "them" to "us" (10)--to the mirror image of the idealization of Western capitalist democracies. After all, capitalism, democracy, and the West, had won the epic, decades-long battle of the Cold War. (11)
The complexities and challenges of the process of transition for the former Soviet Republics, now more than a decade and a half long, is evident in the disparate nature of their current circumstances. While Poland, the Baltic Republics (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), and the component parts of the former Czechoslovakia (the Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary and Slovenia (formerly a constitutive republic of Yugoslavia) are now members of the European Union, others continue to struggle with the challenges of the post-Soviet reality. (12) Ethnic conflicts--which led, for example, to the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, low standards of living, and difficulties--both economic and social--of adjusting to free market economic systems have created stumbling blocks for many of the new states. (13) Further, the installation of authoritarian regimes in Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Uzbekistan, has stymied the republics' movements toward democracy. (14) Even the republics that have overcome post-Soviet political malaise or repression, or both, through a successful expression of "people power" (namely the Orange Revolution of Ukraine, the Rose Revolution of Georgia, and Kygyrstan's ejection of its former President) have encountered difficulties in the execution of pro-Western, popularly backed reform. (15)
B. Armenia's Transition to Democracy
This Article assesses, through the lenses of elections and Armenia's Constitution, the transition to democracy and the rule of law in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia (Armenia or the Republic). Armenia, which has encountered many of the challenges faced by the other transitional countries, and might appear to be similarly, if not better, circumstanced, provides an excellent case study, particularly in view of the advantages that the Republic appeared to have when it became an independent member of the international community.
Through exploration of multiple layers of meaning in the analogy of smoke, mirrors, and the joker in the pack, it is possible to recognize certain broad themes in the process of transition in Armenia--themes which have general applicability to other transitional societies. To challengers who may claim "There is no joker" and "All transitions, whether from communism to democracy or from feudalism to fettered monarchy entail upheaval, are imperfect, and do not flow smoothly," I interpose the following rebuttal: To the extent that no transition is easy or free of challenges, it is more crucially the task of the analyst to identify the factors that pose barriers to such transitions. Only through identification, subjection to analysis, comparison, and contrast of individual factual circumstances can the jokers be managed, constrained, and neutralized.
The assessment performed in this Article neither implies nor adopts a particular incarnation of democracy. However, a normative bias in favor of democracy does underlie the analysis. In 1992, Professor Thomas Franck wrote of the emergence of a new international norm--the right to democratic governance. (16) Tracing the emergence of the norm through both state practice and its foundation in the right to self-determination, among other rights, (17) Franck identifies "[t]he ... newest building block in constructing the entitlement to democracy ... the emerging normative requirement of a participatory electoral process." (18) In a later work, Franck acknowledged the complexities inherent in a global movement toward democracy. (19) In clarifying his claim, he made clear that the democracy that is protected by the new norm is "not some unattainable, impracticable absolute democracy"; (20) instead, the content of the emergent right is the creation of "a presumption in favor of governance by the free, equal, and secret expression of popular will." (21)
Similarly, the analysis conducted in this Article does not attempt to measure Armenia's transition to democracy (or its adherence to the rule of law) against some extant manifestation of democracy, the rule of law, or even a particular idealized conception of those terms. Clearly, even if one looks to more mature democracies, such as the United States, serious questions could be raised not only about the electoral processes (22) but also structural features of the U.S. constitutional framework. (23) Instead, this Article attempts to ascertain, with respect to Armenia's transition to democracy, whether the Armenian people govern through the "free, equal, and secret expression of popular will." (24)
Since September 1991, when the Republic declared its independence from the Soviet Union, (25) the country has often been held up as a beacon of democracy (26) and economic freedom (27) among transitional countries. The country appeared to be poised for success, with a well-educated population (28) and ardent support from the Armenian Diaspora, (29) which had attained much lobbying power in Western countries such as the United States. (30) Although a superficial examination would indicate, based on the adoption of new laws, (31) the amendment of much Soviet-era legislation, (32) the ratification of international human rights treaties, (33) among other overt actions such as memberships in the World Trade Organization (34) and the Council of Europe, (35) that the Republic of Armenia is in the midst of a grand transition toward democracy and rule of law reform, this is, in a fundamental sense, but an illusion.
Analysis of post-Soviet elections and plebiscites in Armenia, the balance of power among the branches of government enshrined in Armenia's 1995 Constitution, and both the process of amendment and the substance of the amended Constitution adopted through a referendum in December 2005 indicate that the country is in the throes of a creeping authoritarianism, a pseudo democracy with a de facto autocrat at its helm. (36) Despite the apparent wide-ranging changes in the legal and political landscape since 1991, rule of law reform and the spread of democracy is largely superficial and formalistic. (37) The people of Armenia are experiencing a simulacrum of democracy that has dashed their hopes and expectations of post-Soviet transformation.
Part II of this Article summarizes Armenia's recent economic, social, and political history. Part III summarizes and analyzes trends in the conduct of Armenia's post-Soviet elections, describing the events surrounding elections, including alleged and documented violations and the popular demonstrations against the results. Part IV employs narrative devices to give the flavor of the Armenian presidential elections of 2003, of which the author was an observer. Part V examines Armenia's Constitution, centering on the status of the Judiciary and the process and looked-for benefits of the Constitution's 2005 amendment as a mechanism to evaluate adherence to the rule of law. Part VI attempts to identify the "joker in the pack," while Part VII concludes by assaying the steps required for transition to democracy and adherence to the rule of law in Armenia.
II. ARMENIA AFTER THE U.S.S.R.
A strategically important country (38) with which most Americans are unfamiliar, for a period of time after dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia reportedly received the second largest amount of annual aid from the United States on a per capita basis, only behind Israel. (39) Since 1993, the Republic has received grants and loans from international monetary and lending institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, totaling more than $1 billion (USD). (40) In addition, since 1992, the United States alone directed more than $1.6 billion (USD) in aid to Armenia. (41) Although the relationship with the United States is a close one and Diaspora Armenians defend Armenia's interests in the United States, (42) Armenia also maintains close ties with Russia (43) and Iran (44)--strategic alignments that provide a buffer from the hostility of its Turkish and Azeri neighbors. (45)
A. Geography and History of Armenia
Landlocked in mountainous territory between the Caspian and Black Sea, today's Armenia is a mere fragment of the Armenian people's historic territory, which once stretched from eastern Turkey through the Transcaucasus. (46) A region of contested dominance among the Persian, Ottoman, and Tsarist Russian empires, (47) the territory that is now Armenia was conquered and annexed into the Russian Empire in 1828. (48) A brief independence from the Russians, lasting from 1918 until 1921, was followed by absorption into the Soviet Union. (49) It was after the conquest by communist Russia that the current borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan were delineated in their current configuration, (50) laying the groundwork for the current conflict with Azerbaijan.
B. Post-Soviet Political Developments; Conflicts & Consequences
Armenia remained a Soviet Republic until 1991, when the Republic declared its independence based on a plebiscite, during which citizens of Soviet Armenia voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from the Soviet Union. (51) Since gaining its independence, the people of this tiny (52) Transcaucasian republic have engaged in fierce conflict with their neighbor, Azerbaijan. (53) As a consequence, Armenia has also continued to endure a closed border and economic blockade (54) by Azerbaijan, as well as Turkey, its large neighbor to the west. It has also experienced the traumatic assassination of Members of its Parliament broadcast live on public television. (55)
In 1988, the Supreme Soviet of Nagorno-Karabagh, the majority Armenian Autonomous Region within Azerbaijan's borders, (56) delivered a request to Moscow that the region be transferred from Azerbaijan's to Armenia's control. (57) The request was met with strong public reactions in both countries--an outpouring of large public demonstrations in Armenia in support of the request (58) and anti-Armenian pogroms in Azerbaijan. (59) Tension and allegations of mistreatment and massacre escalated on both sides, leading to the outbreak of hostilities. The situation deteriorated with more demonstrations, pogroms, exchanges of population and military conflict. (60) Armenia's Azeris fled the Republic and Azerbaijan's Armenians fled Azerbaijan. (61) The U.S.S.R., unable to contain the conflict, and further preoccupied by its own woes, switched support from Azerbaijan to Armenia (62) on the basis of geopolitical imperatives (63) and as its own leadership changed. (64)
The conflict increased following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and continued until 1994, when a ceasefire was brokered under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group. (65) The conflict left Armenia cleansed of its Soviet-era Azeri population (66) and holding one-fifth of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territory, (67) including the Lachin corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh. (68)
During and subsequent to the conflict, Armenia endured a blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey which interrupted its communications, transport, and energy supply links with Russia and the wider world. (69) Armenia also suffered a devastating earthquake in 1988 that killed 25,000 people. (70) The energy crisis that began with the 1989 imposition of the blockade (71) contributed to a ruinous shrinkage of its economy, epitomized by a 60% decrease in GDP between 1991 and 1993. (72) The energy crisis ended only with the reopening of the Medzamor nuclear plant in 1995. (73)
C. Political Leaders and Assassins
Armenia's leadership is inextricably linked with the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict; it was from the group of leaders who supported Karabagh's bid to rejoin Armenia (the Karabagh Committee) that the nation's post-Soviet leadership arose. (74) Levon Ter-Petrossian, Armenia's first post-Soviet president who served from 1991 to 1998, as well as key figures in his government, led the Karabagh Committee as it transformed into the Armenian National Movement, which spearheaded the call for Armenia's independence from the Soviet Union. (75)
Ter-Petrossian's willingness to negotiate with Azerbaijan and Turkey about Karabagh's fate (perhaps even allowing Karabagh to remain an autonomous region of Azerbaijan in return for a lifting of the crippling Azeri-Turkey blockade) (76) led to his resignation in 1998. (77) Ter-Petrossian was replaced by Robert Kocharian, a Karabagh-born prime minister, and ardent defender of Karabagh's right to decide its own status.
On October 27, 1999, five gunmen entered the Armenian parliamentary Assembly, killing Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian; the President of the National Assembly, Karen Demirjian; and six other officials. (78) The gunmen surrendered the next day after holding the surviving Legislative body hostage overnight. (79) Soon after the capture, the prosecutor's decisions regarding the indictment of the gunmen and the nature of the charges to be brought against them ended any zealous official investigation into a potentially wide-ranging plot. (80) The five gunmen were charged as individuals, and the public investigation of unapprehended conspirators ceased. (81)
The power behind the gunmen, if any, has not been revealed. Mr. Nairi Hunuanian, the leader of the gunmen, was convicted of murder in December 2004 and sentenced to life imprisonment. (82) The war, the trauma of the assassination, and the farcical trial of the accused perpetrators left deep scars on the Armenian psyche and public life. (83)
The killings removed in one fell swoop Robert Kocharian's most influential opponents, (84) arousing the enduring suspicions of Armenians regarding his involvement in the assassination conspiracy. (85) The elimination of his opponents allowed the consolidation of more power within the office of the president. (86)
D. Apparent Progress
Despite this tumult, Armenia appears to have made astonishing progress on the road toward democracy and international standing. Armenia sought international legitimacy by, among other things, signing international conventions and carrying out amendments to its Soviet-era legislation. For example, Armenia acceded to the following international conventions: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (87) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, (88) the Convention on the Rights of the Child (89) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. (90)
In 2001, the Republic made significant strides in its efforts to strengthen its relationship with Europe, acceding to the Council of Europe and ratifying the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. (91) In January 2003, Armenia became a member of the World Trade Organization. (92) To the cursory Western observer, adoption of these new international obligations reflects a movement toward recognition and enforcement of fundamental international norms.
However, 43% of the population lives below the poverty line, (93) and the unemployment rate stands at 30%, (94) stimulating the emigration of large numbers of the Armenian population, (95) despite an 8% growth in gross domestic product. (96) Together with the phenomena discussed in Parts III and IV infra, the economic figures suggest that Armenia's reality may be at variance with the image projected abroad.
III. DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: ARMENIA'S POST-SOVIET ELECTIONS
"[T]he ballot box has yet to effect a change of government or President in an independent Caucasian state." (97)
Since establishing its independence, Armenia has held seven presidential and parliamentary elections. (98) Following each Armenian election, the international community, including the OSCE/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) observer missions, has expressed concerns regarding the freedom and fairness of the proceedings, (99) but generally has agreed that Armenia is making progress on the path to democracy. While this may be true in a broad sense, (100) the events of the presidential elections in February and March 2003 and the parliamentary elections in May 2003 can be viewed as both prism and snapshot, facilitating analysis of the progress of democracy and the rule of law in Armenia. The events of February through May of 2003 (and, indeed, the lead-up to that critical period) demonstrate that the transition to democracy is in large part legalistic and formalistic, and has not penetrated to institutional and administrative levels. (101) This negative analysis is more forcefully suggested when the 2003 elections and the 2005 plebiscite to amend the Armenian Constitution are situated within the history of Armenia's post-Soviet elections.
Further, review and analysis of the Republic's post-Soviet elections indicate that fundamental characteristics of democracy--elections, popular demonstrations, political parties--are carefully stage-managed to convey a superficial image of democratic transition. However, the consistently fraudulent elections reveal an entrenched regime that has minimized the "free, equal, and secret expression of popular will." (102)
A. Democracy and Elections
To undertake to define "democracy" would be a task of Herculean difficulty and splendor. To create a new definition of the term is beyond the scope of this Article. Instead, before reviewing Armenia's post-Soviet elections, this Part will attempt to identify some essential characteristics of democracy.
To break down "democracy" to its component linguistic parts, it is defined as the rule by the demos, the people. (103) However, the demos cannot govern when the population's size surpasses that of the ancient city states, and expansive territorial boundaries are commonplace. In the era of the nation state, rule by the people is possible only through the mechanism of indirect or representative government. (104) That is, given the size and complexity of the modern polity, the people no longer have the ability to practice direct democracy, (105) that is, to govern themselves via face-to-face meetings of all the people/citizens. Instead, a system of representative government is required, where the people designate the representatives that will govern them or, better put, designate the representatives through whom they will govern themselves.
Modern democracy, then, government by the people in a nation state, involves representation by voters of the entire polity and populace of the political unit. It involves government by the people through their elected representatives. Further, it requires participation, through oversight and quality controls, of the governance provided by the representatives. Fundamentally, democracy requires the express consent of the people regarding the identity of their representative governors and the nature of that governance.
Why use elections as a lens through which to analyze a country's transition to democracy and its rule of law reform? Elections have been called the "traditional acid test" of democracy (106) and "[f]ree and fair elections the sine qua non of a democratic society." (107) According to this view, elections, the process through which the people elect their representatives, are the fundamental test for a functioning democracy. (108) It is through the mechanism of elections that the demos participate in governing itself. (109) As discussed in Part I supra, Thomas Franck has identified "the emerging normative requirement of a participatory electoral process" (110) and the creation of "a presumption in favor of governance by the free, equal, and secret expression of popular will." (111)
Yet, equally assertive are the voices that maintain the insufficiency of elections as the measure of the functioning of a democracy, or as an indicator of the successful transition of a society. Thomas Carothers warns of the danger of idealizing elections as democracy achieved: "Elections do not equal democracy ... [,] they are, at best, only an early step, one that often leaves underlying political problems largely untouched." (112) Susan Gibson notes the inadequacy of elections as an indication of successful transition: "[c]learly, something more than elections are required before a country can be said to have a democratic government--rather than merely having a democratically-elected government." (113) And Thomas Franck notes the irony that majoritarian and totalitarian regimes may be emplaced through the mechanism of elections. (114) Furthermore, Carothers emphasizes the fragility of elections in transitional countries:
Not only are many bad elections still held in transitional countries, despite the impressive development of elections assistance, but even when an election does come off well it often results in less significant democratic gains than the providers of electoral aid hoped for. The 1990s have seen many successful first elections fail to fulfill their promise as launching pads for democratic transition and consolidation. Several dozen transitions have moved from exciting breakthrough elections into stagnation, backsliding toward authoritarianism, or even breakdown into civil conflict. Democracy promoters often regard elections aid as a key that will help open the door to broader democratization. Once the door is open, however, the remaining challenges are often overwhelming. (115)
Despite, or perhaps in light of, these admonitions, however, it is undeniable that elections present a crucial test for democratic or would-be democratic entities. The principal reasons are two-fold: (1) elections and their conduct are the mechanism through which the people gives its consent (116) and governs itself and (2) elections require that the representatives previously elected by the people, and holding the reins of power, be prepared for and acquiesce in their removal from power by the people.
While conceding that well-run elections, by themselves, do not signify the successful functioning of a democracy, it is clear that badly-run elections, whether stemming from lack of resources or fraudulent intent and lack of respect for the will of the people, denote a malfunctioning of the democratic process. Democracy is even more threatened when the conduct of elections serves to prevent "the free, equal, and secret expression of popular will." (117)
If well-run elections alone cannot be considered a guarantee of a functioning democracy, is the reverse true? That is, can consistently fraudulent elections, alone, be considered an indicator of illusory democratization and adherence to the rule of law? The conduct of elections and plebiscites in Armenia raises this fundamental question.
B. Overview of Armenia's Post-Soviet Elections
The first post-Soviet, post-independence election, the presidential election of October 1991, was generally said to have been free and fair in light of the Republic's lack of experience with elections. (118) Those elections brought Levon Ter-Petrossian, Armenia's first post-Soviet President, to office with a mandate of 83% of the popular vote, (119) riding into office on a cresting wave of market and political liberalization. (120)
However, by the time of the National Assembly elections of 1994, the electoral procedures in Armenia were shrouded in doubt. (121) The downward trend continued with the presidential election of September 1996. (122) Two years later, Ter-Petrossian was forced to resign in a bloodless coup orchestrated by Karabagh-affiliated officials in his administration as well as members of the military, which was heavily invested, and had its origins, in the Karabagh conflict. (123)
In accordance with the Armenian Constitution, following the resignation of Ter-Petrossian's constitutionally-mandated immediate successor, (124) Robert Kocharian, Ter-Petrossian's Karabagh-born Prime Minister and second-in-line, was designated the Republic's second post-Soviet President. (125) Kocharian's appointment was confirmed by general elections that, in accordance with the Armenian Constitution, took place within forty days of Ter-Petrossian's removal. (126) While Karen Demirchian accepted the results of the election, there were rumors that Demirchian, Kocharian's principal opponent, was the true winner. (127)
The next national elections, the May 1998 National Assembly elections, brought a parliamentary majority to Karen Demirchian and Vazgen Sargsian, positioning them to challenge the authority of President Kocharian. (128) Some months after those elections, the political assassinations described in Part II were perpetrated in the Parliament. The confusion and power vacuum created by the killings gave President Kocharian the opportunity to begin the accumulation of power in the Executive branch of Armenia. (129)
1. The 2003 Elections
In February through March and May of 2003, Armenia held its third presidential and fourth parliamentary elections since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. (130) The first round of voting in the presidential elections was held on February 19, 2003. (131) As required under Armenian law, a second round of voting was scheduled since none of the nine candidates had received the "50% plus one votes" (132) mandated by the Electoral Code. (133) Following accusations of election falsification, (134) mass demonstrations, and arrests of opposition supporters, (135) the second round of the elections was held on March 5, 2003. (136) The incumbent, President Robert Kocharian, was declared the decisive victor, with 67.5% of votes cast. (137)
The elections were held in the context of concentrated reform and support efforts by the international community, including the U.S. government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its contractors. (138) In 2002-2003, a total of $22.4 million of aid from the United States was directed toward the municipal, presidential, and National Assembly elections of 2002-2003. (139) Other donors included Armenia's European neighbors, through the offices of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. (140)
The efforts of the international community to help foster free and fair elections included millions of dollars of assistance, in the form of, inter alia, technology transfers, monitoring of and assistance to the media, and trainings of election officials and the Judiciary in preparation for the elections, media monitoring, and assistance. (141) Nevertheless, the elections failed to meet international standards, (142) and raised serious doubts regarding the validity of the proceedings and their official results. In both the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2003, the OSCE/ODIHR election observation missions (143) opined that the conduct of the proceedings did not meet international standards. Despite this commitment of resources and conventional perception of the Republic as a beacon of democracy and economic progress, the 2003 Armenian elections were neither free nor fair, (144) evidencing instead a well-thought-out and coordinated subversion of the democratic process.
In addition to elections for public office, since its independence from the Soviet Union, Armenia has held three referenda. Through the constitutional referendum of 1995, the Armenian people approved the Republic's first post-Soviet Constitution. (145) The second referendum on the Constitution, held in tandem with the parliamentary elections of 2003, did not receive voter approval for the proposed constitutional amendments. (146) Finally, the contested results of the 2005 constitutional referendum, according to the administration, confirmed the populace's approval for the proposed constitutional reforms. (147)
C. Post-Soviet Elections Violation Trends
A review of the OSCE/ODIHR final election reports issued after the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2003 elections reveal recurring trends in Armenian electoral violations. This analysis will highlight a number of the more fundamental defects in the conduct of the elections that undermine the freedom and fairness of the Armenian electoral process as observed by the OSCE/ODIHR.
1. Access to Media:
In its 1996 Presidential Elections Report, the OSCE/ODIHR mission noted that the incumbent President received the lion's share of electronic media coverage, and that the vast majority of such coverage was favorable. (148) The report noted with concern that the state of the media in Armenia, and the economic circumstances of the majority of its citizens, created a heavy reliance by voters on electronic media for information about the elections and candidates, as only electronic media provided nationwide coverage. (149) The state television station, in defiance of electoral laws and regulations, did not provide equal coverage of all candidates. (150)
The failure of media outlets to adhere to Armenian electoral law and the discriminatory nature of coverage continued to be a significant problem during the presidential and National Assembly elections in 1998, 1999 and 2003. (151)
2. Voter Lists
The observer mission in 1996 pointed to the inadequacy of the voter lists, the lack of coordination and the lack of transparency in their production, and their overall inaccuracy, as important elements in the conduct of Armenia's elections. (152) Nevertheless, throughout the ensuing OSCE/ODIHR reports, covering elections in 1998, 1999, and 2003, the flaws in the voter lists continued to …