Observers Blast Election Report

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission issued a preliminary report [See page 11] Wednesday on the second round of the presidential elections in Armenia.

In its report–the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission said that the election was a step forward from the troubled 1996 election toward a functioning democracy. Observers–however–noted that in some areas the election fell short of the commitmen’s Armenia has made to OSCE standards. The Mission said–however–that those shortcomings do not cause them to question the outcome of the election.

The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission will issue its final report within the next few weeks.

Also on Wednesday–the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe released a report–wherein the run-off elections were deemed generally well-organized and conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner.

The delegation said there was no doubt about the legitimacy of the election. "…At this election we feel that Armenia went forward not backward."

Leader of the delegation Lord Russel Johnston said that this was a steady step along the path toward Armenian accession to the Council of Europe.

Commenting on the statement by the OSCE/ODIHM Observation Mission to the Armenian extraordinary presidential election–Bernard Owen–a European Council expert–Advisor to the Chairman of the Armenian Central Electoral Commission–said during his press conference that the OSCE monitors were not the only observation group. There have also been other representatives–parliamentarians who were surprised at the OSCE Observation Mission’s statement following the first round of the Armenian early presidential elections.

According to Owen–statemen’s by Sam Brown–head of the OSCE Observation Mission–following the first round of voting reflected a rather falsified picture of the reality. Therefore–an objective observation was not expected from the OSCE. "In this respect–the OSCE statement was sufficient–but nothing more," he said.

Owen assessed the electoral process rather positively for a country in a transitional state of being. According to him–there are so many shortcomings in the Armenian electoral law–that even the states with perfect electoral structures–would have met great difficulties had they attempted to exercise Armenia’s law. Owen said that not only the number of monitoring groups but also their quantity should be taken into consideration. There were groups–the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Union–in particular–which gave an objective picture of the electoral process.

Regarding the sentence in the OSCE statement that "in some areas–the elections fell short of the commitmen’s to OSCE standards," Owen stated that there are no OSCE standards in general. The only standard is the opportunity for people to freely express their will–he said. He also pointed out to OSCE representatives that irregularities and violations have even been reported in the member states of the Organization–namely in Canada and France. "In this respect–there is no need to speculate with the words ‘norms’ or ‘OSCE standards’ for there are no such standards specified in the OSCE documen’s," Owen said.

"The second round of the presidential voting was well-organized. The elections proceeded peacefully and in accordance with the law," Lord Russell Johnston–head of the Monitoring Mission of the Council of Europe–stated during a Wednesday press. "There is no doubt concerning the legitimacy of these elections," Johnston said.

Lord Russell Johnston noted that–unfortunately–OSCE monitors cited "a very restricted number" of "serious irregularities." Lord Johnston pointed out that these irregularities on don’t affect the final results of the presidential elections.

"These elections are a step forward–a step toward Armenia’s membership to the Council of Europe," Lord Johnston added.

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