Interview With Heidi Tagliavini Head of OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission

madam ambassador there was an assassination attempt against one of the leading presidential candidates Perry counties legendary you know human rights activist and he was wounded and hospitalized and he stayed in the hospital for some five days and actually he wasn’t able to go outside to meet his constituency and talk to them explain his programs and he was actually running his campaign from the hospital through television and radio interviews my question is this and also he had the right to ask the constitutional court to postpone the elections for at least two weeks but he didn’t do that so what your opinion was there anyhow this case was handled by the government by authorities did you see any pressure from the government and also how the second question about this what was the impact on the entire pre-election process well let me first say that this incident is of course highly regrettable and I really wish the candidate good recovery because it is of course terrible any attack on a person in this way is an impasse on impacted terrible impact but let me say that we have also reacted quite quickly the audio director has immediately stated his concern about this incident and requested the authorities to investigate the case so far we know that the authorities are investigating the crime and we also in this press release the director expressed his hope that this incident will not impact on the campaign the candy that had the possibility within five days to request the Constitutional Court to postpone the election for two weeks he has on 5th februari decided not to do so but we know also that there is again in consideration so it’s back to the hospital now back to the hospital exactly and that the case may be opened again so in this situation is extremely difficult to make any statement that would be valid it would be just speculation but we wish him good recovery what do you think that the you know the case was handled properly so far the country that had the possibility to appeal he decided not to appeal the crime is investigated of course we hope that this investigated we know already that some results have come out of this investigation but more than that I can’t say on them Mel ambassador how do you evaluate pre-election situation after your first interim report you were hoping that the government will not use ad most of the resources during the presidential campaign did you get complaints from the candidates about this issue you have also now the second interim report yes it was about to refer to the second interim report which has already many more observations of our 24 long term observers which are in the field Eric deployed throughout Armenia to observe how the preparation for the elections are going in the countryside and from their reports we hear of course about the use of administrative sources and our finding so far was that the distinction between administrative between campaign activity and state functions appears to be blurred and we give a number of examples such as governess taking leave is a format it’s a formal leave to campaign in favor of the incumbent teachers that are told to attend rallies meetings campaign meetings and so on we have heard you have talked of course to all the candidates and several candidates have mentioned number of allegations let’s put it that way so far the allegations are about voter list deficiencies that still are an issue the allegation about misuse of administrative resources and then also a sort of a general lack of trust in the integrity of the electoral process well ambassador that the presidential team has already issued the statement in

response to your second interim report in which you cite long-term observers according to which incumbents allegedly or using campaign office is located in the public and government buildings the presidential team however says that you know these buildings I mentioned in your report are not public property or belong to the local governments they were actually rented from the third party what would you say and they also suggesting meeting with you discussing case-by-case what what’s your let me first say I have a first sort of general remark in our observations and in our reports we do not invent we do not just go and look and say AHA this is like this we go when we talk we talk to people we talked to election-related interlocutors and we look on the spot where is a campaign building located so we base our findings on what we are told now we have of course also seen the comments made on our interim report but I can tell you that we are already having meetings with the relevant bodies with the campaign offices and asked to clarify but once more our observations are based on what we are told if things facts turn out to be otherwise we would of course accept it but so far our findings have been verified several and there is this this kind of working group set up by the presidential administration and to address shortcomings or the previous elections what happened to the grip group do you have any report on that so are they really working fixing things well let me say first of all that all this happened of course before my arrival to Armenia I have not been part of the past election observation mission which observed the parliamentary election but I know that there has been a working group set up by a presidential decree this working group has worked throughout summer and came up with a kind of an action plan which was sent to our headquarter to the oh dear office in more so and it was in October very close to the next presidential election and that’s the reason why our office in war so while assessing that it was a laudable effort to have a working group working on recommendations also advised rather not to change any provision with regard to the electoral law so close to the next election and it is also sort of Venice Commission reaction when his commission comment which says the practice actually requires that such changes be made a year before election at least one year before a coming election so the idea now would be that when the presidential election is over oh dear we’ll come up with a final report which will also have recommendations after which oh dear is ready to come back to Armenia and to discuss to combine all these different recommendations but in an inclusive process in which all stakeholders elected election-related bodies parties civil society are part of the process Mel ambassador your main observations so far I’m speaking in general you had your first interim report the second report what would you recommend at this stage of the election campaign let me say that and you must know that as you follow election since a long time at this stage we don’t recommend we try not even to assess too much because assessments and recommendations is for the period after the election but so far what we can say and those who have seen the second interim report have seen this we observe this campaign as being rather low-key in the sense that it is not a highly exciting event throughout the city of a low visibility rather a low visibility we of course noted the blurred distinction between the campaign activities and the state functions with

the leave of official state officials with what I’ve mentioned already of wisdom compelling teachers students medical stuff to attend events and so on but I would like to underline that for example the election administration preparations are going ahead according to schedule we know that all the 1988 precinct Election Commission’s have been formed we know that trainings are being given for the PEC members and our long-term observers assess these trainings as positive and the central election commission is working in an open and a transparent manner so again we have also noticed that for example this allegation about voter lists deficiencies we are in constant contact with the passport and these are department and the police on improvement of the voters list and so far we see that there has been an effort to raise the citizens awareness of the fact that they can to verify the their names their addresses and they can verify the data which is in the voter lists and also as as we say as you know we also monitor of course several media such as six television channels to radio channels three newspapers and two online media and so far we see that there is actually that all candidates have been covered regularly we note of course that the incumbent and raffi hovannisian for example are covered more that may have to do with the fact that they are campaigning more actively than other country party structures all over and and of course we also noted the fact that candidate polyhydric young as a consequence of his attack attack on him has been covered more extensively but this has to do with the particular situation so that’s that’s sort of the mad ambassador yesterday we president was referring to the fact that there is no you know excitement you know in and he says that’s a good thing and he is like saying that it’s good when everything is quiet and in some sense I would agree with him because in the European countries it’s like non-event when there is in the election people don’t care that much you know as opposed to our countries here former Soviet republics it’s a big event but he was like trying to hint that the lack of excitement is a good thing not a bad thing what’s with her well I would like in that case um to refer to again I was our qualification in our interim report to where we say the campaign so far was low-key and of limited visibility and this is with no positive or negative sign I think it is just what you can what we can mind if you come as a citizens to this country as a foreign citizen to this country and you look around you don’t automatically see demonstrations all over with that again we don’t want to say that this is good or bad but Loki is actually it means it is everything is going in a way that preparations are on the way but not in a very visible way diff acting so it’s not necessarily negative or positive you know finally such is not negative consultation of the fact it is it is a qualification as it is as we as we assess it mal ambassador you were ahead of the OSC OD observation mission in Russia and you had pretty tough findings there and I remember also you from from that elections from that period was 2011-12 yes exactly yes and do you see any difference between these two countries between these two missions you were observing there and here and perhaps maybe you can put this into the context of former Soviet republics what’s your say on this well let me first say that um I would really not like to compare any election not even in Armenia a previous election with the next election an election is always an event in itself now if you take two countries like Russia and Armenia the sheer size of Russia makes it a totally different situation of course with

different different history different political system maybe but the thing is not not only in that matter every country has its own election electoral law system how to regulate the election for example armenia has an electric code which is actually a recommendable thing to have an electoral code many countries do not have one code but have many different laws makes it a bit more difficult to find your way through so already from that point of view it’s very difficult to come elections so we have the code they don’t have the code well every country has also some reasons why they have one system rather than another system and again it’s not a qualification but it makes it very difficult to compare so let me say that I would actually rather refrain from comparing and the philosophical question do you think these observation missions are a useful exercise what as as as a diplomat you know as a citizen of European Union what’s your take just taking decide that you are ahead of this mission what’s your let me first clarify one thing I am a Swiss citizen and unfortunately for myself we are not member of the European yes that’s our own voice as a Swiss citizen and as a citizen I think of an old and confirmed democracy I am really a fervent adherent of election observation mission I think every country in the OSC sort of among the OSE States should have election observation mission and I’m very glad that we have more and more election observation mission also in the so-called Western European countries my country Switzerland for example had an election observation mission in 2011 and I can tell you the reaction of our population was the why should we have an election observation nation we have perfect elections nobody has any mistrust in the electoral system but it was an excellent opportunity to show to some of the interlocutors in Switzerland that every country has a need of improvement of the democracy what was the problem in switzerland in switzerland parties do not have to disclose their finances for the campaign and indeed there is one party in Switzerland who seems to use quite a lot of money for a policy which is not supported by many people it’s a bit racist it is anti-immigrant it is rather on the right side not very progressive so people were really happy that the recommendation came from oh dear please disclose your complaint finances so that I think that’s the explanation I am really in favor you don’t build a democracy in one day but this is one element that can actually increase confidence people confidence of people in an electoral process and as follow-up question Matt ambassador there is also one very important question is related to this that is causing sometimes confusion some people believe that you are here to give a final verdict to the election results and with your conclusion to say whether elected official in this case president is legitimate or not so based on this assumption sometimes you would hear criticism addressed to the OSE or deer that you are like shying away from saying you know whether these elections were good elections whether the elected official is legitimate or not what’s your answer to this criticism luckily we are not a tribunal we are a very technical organization I would say in that sense there are the so-called Copenhagen commitments international standards there is the legal framework in them in every country and we only measure whether ghee standard have been reached and we and and this is actually quite technical we assess compliance so we don’t really come up with a political statement which would be legitimizing elections that’s up to to the country to assess whether the elections were legitimate or not legitimate we are just providing the framework or the analysis and the assessment of what we see in an election so it would be too much to expect from all the years to come up with a verdict legitimizing and it would also make our task

much more difficult because of course countries would think twice whether to invite us if we are not legitimizing certain elections we actually do a technical job and final question your first time in Armenia no I think I was hearing quite important times my first time was sometimes in 1975-76 I was a student and the tourist guide with Swiss tourist through the Soviet Union and I came also to Armenia and then the second time was an important time I think Switzerland was at the country which very quickly recognized Anya and I was then number two in the Swiss Embassy in Moscow and with my ambassador we recommend it to our government to immediately take up diplomatic relations so i came here in january beginning of january nineteen ninety-two we took up diplomatic relations with then Foreign Minister Ravi oven is young and president levantar petrosyan so the history is but since then i must say i haven’t been very often to armenia and it’s a very interesting period to be in a country when a country has elections thank you very much madam ambassador thank you for being here thank you for calling