French Ambassador Praises Election

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The French ambassador to Armenia–Michel Legras–last week described his personal observations of the March 16 presidential election in Armenia as "good," although he noted that some of his colleagues were suspicious of officers who accompanied soldiers to the polls.

"After visiting around ten polling stations in Yerevan and its suburbs I made sure that people were voting in absolutely free conditions and for the candidate they wanted," said Legras. The ambassador praised the serious attitude both the voters and polling stations personnel displayed.

"I didn’t notice any erroneous or illegal acts," said Legras–adding that some of his colleagues had observed officers apparently interfering in the military vote.

This election can be favorably compared with the 1996 presidential race also because it had a wider list of candidates and more energetic campaigning–he noted. Legras spoke of the presidential candidates as worthy representatives of Armenia’s "political family," saying that each of them could lead his own party to a success in the next parliamentary elections.

The ambassador commented on a rumor that if Robert Kocharian–the front-runner–wins the presidency he would appoint the loser–Karen Demirchian–prime minister. Legras expressed distaste for the idea of naming Kocharian’s main opponent to the number two office–because "good democracy needs a good opposition and who can be a better opposition than a candidate reaching a runoff with a considerable popular vote?"

He acknowledged that in France–a country whose legislation has much in common with Armenia’s–the office of Prime Minister is currently held by Jaqcues Chirac’s main rival in the last presidential race–Lionel Jospin. But Jospin took the office only after his party had won the parliamentary elections.

Legras advised careful reading of the report by the OSCE Observation Mission special representative–Sam Brown–as the latter "is a diplomat after all." What is written in the report doesn’t declare the election free and fair–however it does not deem it unfree or unfair.

Commenting on the statement by Central Electoral Committee Chairman Khachatur Bezirjian that the OSCE observers are setting higher requiremen’s for Armenia than for other countries–the French diplomat said–"I am against double standards. Yet–you should only be proud that such high requiremen’s are being set for your country. It means that Armenia is being regarded as a law-abiding state."

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