On February 19, the International Election Observation Mission (OSCE/ODIHR, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament) released the Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions about the Armenian presidential elections, held on the eve. According to the observers, “the election was generally well-administered and was characterized by a respect for fundamental freedoms”: contestants were able to campaign freely, media fulfilled their legal obligation to provide balanced coverage, and all contestants made use of their free airtime. At the same time, the observers expressed their concern with the lack of impartiality of the public administration, misuse of administrative resources, and cases of pressure on voters; during the election day some serious violations were observed, too.
Referring to the opinions of local experts, the EOM welcomed the existence of a freer media environment and the variety of information available, especially on the Internet; however, the Mission also pointed out persisting problems, including self-censorship and media ownership affecting editorial independence.
Based on the monitoring results, conducted by the OSCE/ODIHR, the observers specifically stressed that the studied media paid significant attention to the elections, covered all candidates, predominately focusing on their campaign events. (The research includes 6 national TV channels – the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia, Second Armenian TV Channel, “Armenia”, “Shant”, "Kentron" and “Yerkir Media”; 2 radio stations – Public Radio of Armenia and Radio "Free Europe"/Radio "Liberty" Armenian Service; 3 national dailies – state-funded "Hayastani Hanrapetutiun", "Aravot" and "Haykakan Zhamanak" and 2 online media – www.news.am and www.1in.am.)
The EOM highlighted the statement of Yerevan Press Club of January 25, 2013, which called upon broadcasters and presidential candidates to organize TV debates (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 25-31, 2013). Some private stations offered to do so, but the candidates, including the incumbent President, decided not to avail themselves of this option. As a result, voters were not given the opportunity to see meaningful exchange about the contestants’ platforms, the observers noted.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Election Observation Mission also considered the lack of debates as a shortcoming of the electoral campaign. When making their Post-Election Statement on the Presidential Elections in Armenia on February 19, the observers stressed that the elections in Armenia represent an improvement compared to previous presidential elections, however, they were not genuinely competitive.
“The total lack of direct debates between candidates and a limited amount of critical journalism limited voters’ ability to compare and contrast political platforms”, emphasized the OSCE PA Election Observation Mission. At the same time, the observers noted that the media coverage enabled voters to inform themselves regarding the campaign, the broadcast media generally provided balanced coverage of presidential candidates, and an array of private media also enabled candidates to present their views and qualifications.