In recent days, a video titled “Soldiers took a ready-made envelope from the voting booth and left” was actively spread on the Internet and in the media. The video showed a part of a footage from an unknown polling station, which was presented as evidence of guided voting of the servicemen.
The publications mentioned that “the voting process takes a few seconds, as the only action of the servicemen is to take the ready-made envelope with the ballot paper in it and leave.”
However, none of the publications mentioned the number of the polling station seen in the video.
On June 24, the Prosecutor General’s Office informed Sputnik Armenia that the video was being studied, and the place and time are still unknown.
The Fact Investigation Platform turned to the “Independent Observer” observation mission, trying to find the given precinct and the full video.
The observation mission studied the videos of all the polling stations together with the Russian “Golos” human rights NGO, and was able to locate the polling station in the video and find the full video, which was passed to us for study.
Thus, the video was really made on the day of the June 20 snap parliamentary elections. The polling station (N38/36) in the video is in Aygedzor village of Tavush Province. The servicemen of the nearby military unit voted here.
One of the news outlets that disseminated the video wrote: “In the video, it is seen how the servicemen enter the voting booth after taking the stack of ballot papers, throw all the ballot papers in the trash box, take the ready-made envelope with the ballot paper from the voting booth and leave.”
However, after careful examination of the video, it becomes clear that the soldiers (and not only them) put the ballot paper in the envelope while waiting in line to enter the voting booth, and when they enter the voting booth, they simply get rid of the ballot papers they did not need. This is apparent open voting, but there is no guidance, there are no ready-made envelopes in the booth. By sharing a short video and a providing a wrong interpretation, the media outlets actually manipulated, failing to present the whole situation.
It is noteworthy that, contrary to the allegations in the publications, this violation was not widespeard. Besides, it becomes clear from the video that the soldiers, who were participating in the elections for the first time, did not know how to vote, they were not properly informed about the voting procedure in the polling station.
Electoral violations in 38/36 polling station
Examining the full video from the polling station, FIP․am recorded about thirty violations that took place during the day.
Most of the violations are related to violation of the principle of secret ballot by the citizens and servicemen, as well as open voting, which are all in this video.
In addition, we found that at different times of the day military police officers were inside the polling station, as well as another person who did not have a badge. The latter walked around the polling station, talked to the chairman of the commission, commission members, citizens, soldiers, and in some cases, gave instructions. The presence of a precinct police officer in the voting room from time to time is also а problematic circumstance.
Thus, we can state that the video of the soldiers, which was presented as proof of guided voting, is manipulative, and the claims of the media about soldiers taking “ready-made envelopes” are false.
Nevertheless, we registered a number of cases of open voting, which, however, are not the result of pressure or coercion, but of ignorance. The chairman and members of the commission obviously failed top properly exercise their duties here.