Vote 2013: Tradition of pay-for-vote expected to be non-issue in presidential election

Vote 2013: Tradition of pay-for-vote expected to be non-issue in presidential election

Photolure

Stepan Safaryan

While some people in Armenia still look forward to election bribes, immediate participants and experts believe it won’t be crucial for the February election results. They point out inflated voter lists and abuse of administrative resources as the main means of possible fraud in the coming presidential race.
Varuzhan Hoktanyan


Heritage party secretary Stepan Safaryan, who took part in the special election earlier this month for a vacant place in the parliament, told ArmeniaNow that during the pre-election campaign many people – residents of Avan district, from where he was running, came up to him with outright demand to give money if he wanted their votes.

“They would mostly ask for 10,000 drams ($25). I told them I did not need such voters. They felt offended,” says Safaryan.

There were a few ridiculous cases reported by media in the May parliamentary elections when voters complained that they had not been offered bribes while their neighbors had been. Despite the recent media speculations that in the coming election bribe rates would reach 20,000 drams ($50), today, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyn board member Vahan Hovhannisyan, for example, says that after one of Armenia’s wealthiest people, Prosperous Armenia Party leader Gagik Tsarukyan’s decision not to run for president, it is quite likely that “no money will be distributed”.

“PAP did not nominate a candidate; hence there is no money expectation from that side. Consequently, the Republicans will not be motivated to give out bribes, either. The political forces will not have a stimulus to encourage their potential electorates with gifts or money,” Hovhannissyan told the press on Wednesday.

Safarayan, who lost the special election to his opponent Republican Roberd Sargsyan, Yerevan mayor Taron Margaryan’s brother-in-law, says the outcome of the game is determined by the administrative resource abuse in favor of one candidate.

“When people see that the schools, taxi services, the city hall, district authorities all work for one person, they think the game is over and don’t even bother to go out [to polling stations],” he says.

Varuzhan Hoktanyan heading Transparency International anti-corruption center, which has been monitoring elections in Armenia since 2003, says by international assessments 30-40 percent among the election-bribe recipients do not vote for the candidate or political force they had been bribed to vote for. Besides inflated voter lists, election bribes, bribing district election commissions, Hoktanyan points out also the issue of civil servants.

“People say if someone else comes to power, they’ll lose their jobs. In this case it doesn’t even necessarily take a bribe to make them vote, people will simply elect the ruling force, and that is becoming a serious challenge,” says Hoktanyan.