Election Set for March 16 Prisoners Allowed to Run

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The Central Electoral Committee announced on Friday that early presidential elections are scheduled to be held on March 16. The decision was mandated by Article 43 of the Armenian Constitution and the National Assembly’s acceptance of Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s resignation. The CEC also finalized a schedule for pre-election preparations.

The CEC requires the executive bodies of political parties to finalize their nominations by 6 pm on February 17. An ammendment to the existing law will also allow candidates serving prison terms to submit their application by Feb. 17–as well. The original law required a 60-day advance filing–but since the 40-day deadline prevents the original requiremen’s–the change was made by the CEC.

That same day–the CEC will begin issuing forms for nomination through civil initiative. Nominations forms will be available until February 20. The CEC will begin issuing support signature forms to the civil initiative groups. At least 25,000 signatures need to be collected. All nomination forms need to be submitted to the CEC by 6 pm on March 1.

Registration of candidates will be held between March 1 and March 6. Candidates may begin campaigning from their day of registration through March 15. Presidential elections will be held on March 16–from 8 am to 10 pm.

The CEC will announce preliminary election returns by 10 am on March 19. Official election results will be announced by March 23.

Community and precinct electoral committees which were dissolved following the 1996 presidential elections will be reinstated. Committee members are elected by political parties.

Precinct committees must consist of 20 members and community committees of ten members. If a committee is unable to have sufficient membership the regional committee will assign members.

The Central Electoral Committee and regional committees are permanent and remain in position from years prior.

CEC Chairman Khachatur Bezirjian stated that nearly 200 million drams were provided for the organization of the 1996 presidential elections. However–due to inflation–the 1998 elections require 255 million drams.

Bezirjian also stressed the importance of relations between electoral committees of different levels.

The CEC chairman noted that–due to a lack of time–the CEC has requested the Foreign Ministry’s help in securing the presence of foreign monitors.

According to Bezirjian–it is the Ministry intends to extend invitations to observers from the United Nations–the OSCE Headquarters of Democratic Institutes and Human Rights–the Council of Europe–the European Union–and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly. Bezirjian noted that election monitors will be invited from international organizations and authorities only.

Invitations will not be offered to national organizations. Local observers can only particpate if they are assigned as monitors by the international organizations invited.

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