Most Alleged Violations Reported in Yerevan

YEREVAN(Noyan Tapan)–The Central Electoral Committee of Armenia announced final election returns from the March 16 presidential elections Wednesday–making official what had been speculated for nearly a week– that candidates Robert Kocharian and Karen Demirchian must face a run-off election March 30 after garnering 38.76 percent and 30.67 percent of the votes–respectively–far short of the required 50 percent majority needed for victory.

Several heads of regional electoral commissions reported Tuesday that complaints had been lodged with their departmen’s over alleged voting irregularities and violations–the worst of which was reported by CEC National Democratic Union member Filaret Berikian–who said several voting regions were at fault–particularly the Malatia-Sebastia–Mashtots and Erebuni districts of Yerevan–a city where most of the violations had been reported. There are reports the CEC has asked the Prosecutor’s Office to start an inquiry into the violations.

The Yerevan regional commission has looked into only seven of the more than 70 complaints lodged by polling stations claiming inaccuracies and breaches. Some of the major violations include major discrepancies between the number of ballots and number of voters who went to the polls–a larger-than-usual registry including voters who are currently outside the country–deceased individuals registered as eligible to vote–and voters who didn’t live in the given election area voting nonetheless.

In some cases–voting proceeded without documen’s identifying the voter–but based strictly on certificates of birth and other questionable certificates. Berikian explained the difference between ballots and the number of registered voters–which ran to a hundred in some cases–as a case of ballot box stuffing.

Demirchian representative and well-known attorney–Ruben Sahakian–reported inaccuracies in at least 276 of the 303 polling stations in Yerevan–saying complaints had been lodged against more than a hundred precincts. No inquiries have been launched as of yet.

According to Berikian–up to a 108 percent turnout was reported in different polling stations of Yerevan’s Achapnian district–which is a nonsense–he says.

A summary protocol has been ratified by 12 CEC members–with six refusing to put their signatures under it. George Hakobian (Social Democratic Hunchakian Party) and Arman Vardanian (Ramkavar-Azatakan Party–Liberal Democratic) were absent from the meeting. The six who wouldn’t sign the protocol said the summary data of the final election returns did not correspond to the real state of affairs. Among those six are Communist representatives Viken Sukiassian and Vanya Mkhitarian–representatives of the National Democratic Union Berikian and Vova Hakhverdian–a representative of the "Intellectual Armenia" organization–Armen Khojoyan–and only one of the two representatives of the Self-Determination Union–Norayr Khanzadian.

The opinion of the other SDU representative to the CEC–Ashot Mashourian said–"The more I hear about these falsifications–the more I come to the conclusion that the election was superfree and superfair," he said–adding that he could not find any falsifications since he hadn’t been involved in any.

Those CEC members who ratified the summary protocol reported numerous violations committed in the election process. They voiced regret over failure to get a real picture of the vote even after inquiries were made.

However–taking into consideration the fact that the gap between the votes for the candidates who finished second and third reaches 260,000 votes–those candidates decided to endorse the protocol.

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