Observers Deem Run Off Free Fair

YEREVAN (Combined Sources )–Local and international election observers noted Tuesday that Monday’s run-off presidential elections were held in accordance to democratic norms and principles–as the Central Electoral Commission continued to issue results of the vote which elected Robert Kocharian the new president of Armenia.

As of 10:30 p.m. local time Tuesday–with 93 percent of the precincts reporting results–Kocharian had received 59.71 percent of the votes–while his opponent Soviet-era Communist party boss Karen Demirchian garnered 40.29 percent of the votes.

The CEC had counted 1,348,473 votes and placed voter participation at approximately 70 percent–a 15 percent jump from the first round of elections.

According to Acting President and Prime Minister Robert Kocharian–the run-off elections proceeded well–with evidently fewer complaints and no serious incidents reported.

As for the disbursement of leaflets discrediting him–Kocharian said that similar cases had occurred during the campaigning period. Pamphlets of similar content had been distributed even at schools.

"I do not want to ascribe it to anyone–but I think that criminal proceedings should be instituted in connection with the case and the author of the pamphlets should be revealed," Kocharian said on Tuesday.

Karen Demirchian’s campaign headquarters studied the preliminary figures of the March 30 run-off elections–and analyzed the expected political changes and developmen’s within the country–said Armen Valessian–media spokesman of the Demirchian campaign.

"The fact is that a considerable number of electors gave their votes to Karen Demirchian. This reality provides our presidential candidate with serious basis for his future political activity," Armen Valessian said.

A delegation of the Russian State Duma–including a representative of the "Regions of Russia" faction–Thelman Gdlian–and a representative of the Communist faction–Darya Mitina–visited Etchmiadzin–Massis–Ashtarak–Ararat–Sharak and three districts of Yerevan–on election day.

According to Mitina–no evident violations were observed.

She told Noyan Tapan that the kind attitude the two competing sides had displayed toward each other came as a pleasant surprise to her. "We can’t boast in that regard in Russia," she said–adding that in her country the situation during elections is always tense–full of direct insults–blackmail–and other sordid methods. She gave credit to her Armenian counterparts who had organized the elections. She was confident that no voting violations occurred in regions not visited by her delegation. Mitina reported that her observations were confirmed by representatives of the European Parliament and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly.

The Russian representative voiced confidence that Russia will accept with enthusiasm any outcome of the election. "We have our own interest here–the most important thing for us is our union–integration. I believe that with either candidate winning the election–our mutual relations will only continue to develop and we will remain friends," Mitina concluded.

The CIS Interparliamentary Assembly–the Self-Determination Union and the Communist Party of Armenia all deemed positive the voting process of the run-off elections held Monday.

In a statement issued Tuesday–the CIS delegation said–"Based on its own observations–the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly Monitoring Mission states that the second round of the presidential elections in Armenia proceeded in accordance with Armenia’s Constitution and the state’s Law on Presidential Elections. The elections were administered in an atmosphere of democracy and with sufficient voter turnout. It is possible to deem the President one elected by the will of the voters. The Monitoring Mission observed a number of voting procedure shortcomings but no voting irregularities during the March 30 elections."

Vladimir Goryayev–UN Political Adviser and special envoy studying current political developmen’s in Armenia–was received on Tuesday by Acting Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian.

Goryayev shared his commen’s and considerations regarding the entire process of the presidential elections in Armenia. He particularly noted that 1998 presidential elections were much more transparent–fair and democratic than those of 1996.

The sides also discussed the possibilities of the peaceful resolution to the Karabakh issue.

Self-Determination Union chairman Baruyr Hairikian reported that "the second round of the presidential voting can be considered a long step forward and an unprecedented event in the Armenian history of democracy."

In an Armenpress interview–Hairikian accepted that "there were unfortunately a number of gray points in the presidential elections–however–my preliminary idea is that these points are neither of great quantity nor of great significance in affecting election results."

Chairman of the Communist Party of Armenia Segei Badalian deemed the run-off elections "normal" and "peaceful."

"Our representatives were engaged in the various Election Committees and they say observed no voting irregularities," Badalian said.

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