300 Observers to Monitor March 16 Election

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–the Council of Europe–the European Parliament have agreed to send around 250 observers to monitor the March 16 presidential election–Acting Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said at a news conference Friday. He reported that the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly and the United Nations had not yet responded to Armenia’s request of monitors. However–Oskanian was sure that the CIS is expected to comply with the request.

Oskanian also said that election commissions to operate abroad–as well as the number of people entered on consular registration lists and the addresses of election areas had already been submitted to the Central Electoral Committee. The order of consular registration has been considerably simplified–a citizen of Armenia can be registered free of charge even on the day of the election. According to the foreign minister–very few citizens have been registered on consular lists–with only 6000 such citizens in Moscow and some 5000 in the United States–mostly in Los Angeles. Oskanian found it difficult to specify the size of the electorate abroad. He expressed hope that the simplified consular registration would stimulate potential voters to participate in the election.

The foreign minister described as erroneous statemen’s made by some CEC officials that stating that the polls outside Armenia’should be held only at permanent missions–which–according to Oskanian–restricts choice and therefore violates the rights of voters. According to Oskanian–under international law and existing consular norms–during elections the territories provided to Armenia will be considered as Armenian diplomatic and consular space. Thus–Russia has already agreed to provide territories to Armenia in St. Petersburg–Krasnodar–Rostov–Stavropol and Samara. Oskanian observed that polling stations will be arranged only in countries where Armenia has diplomatic missions or plenipotentiaries; thus–no voting will be held in Poland where the number of citizens of Armenia is 150,000.

Also noting that polls will not be arranged in Nagorno-Karabakh–Oskanian said that citizens of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with registration in Armenia would be able to participate in the vote if they travel to Armenia on the day of the election.

The same day–Oskanian received a delegation of representatives of the Division for Democracy–Human Rights and Labor of the US State Department led by Steven Coffey–deputy assistant of the US Secretary of State. The meeting was also attended by US Ambassador to Armenia–Peter Tomsen.

Issues regarding the internal political situation and the upcoming presidential election were discussed. Coffey emphasized that the US is closely watching the developmen’s in Armenia–attaching great importance to a transparent election. He also underlined that drawing in local observers to monitor the polls will largely contribute to a transparent election.

Oskanian stressed that Armenian authorities were ready to do their utmost for the upcoming election to be free and fair. The foreign minister also said it is very important that international observers will be monitoring the polls.

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