Rep. Pallone Congratulates Kocharian

WASHINGTON–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chair Frank Pallone took to the floor of the House of Representatives at 11:15 p.m. Wednesday to congratulate Armenian President-elect Robert Kocharian’s electoral victory–praising him as "a strong leader–a consensus-builder–and someone who is committed to democracy and economic development."

"We appreciate Representative Pallone’s expression of Congressional support for the democratic strides taken by the Armenian people," said ANCA Government Affairs Director Chris Hekimian. "We share–in particular–his positive evaluation of the election–as well as his observation that the international community has failed to apply similar scrutiny to Azerbaijan–which remains–for all intents and purposes a dictatorship."

Commenting on the conduct of the elections Rep. Pallone cited the head of the Council of Europe’s Monitoring Mission in Armenia–Lord Russell-Johnson–who said that: "The second round of the Presidential voting was well-organized: the elections were passed peacefully and with accordance with the law. This is a steady step along the path toward Armenian accession to the Council of Europe."

The New Jersey Congressman reported to his House colleagues that–"The election has been judged as peaceful–well-organized and legitimate by the Council of Europe–the Commonwealth of Independent States and other international observers. Even the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–the OSCE–which was harsh–and in my opinion unfairly so–in its criticism of the first-round election two weeks ago–even the OSCE has not questioned the outcome." He then pointed out that the "OSCE has seemed to lean more heavily on Armenia–a democracy–than Azerbaijan–for all intents and purposes a dictatorship."

Rep. Frank Pallone–Jr.

Statement in the House of Representatives

Armenia Concludes Successful Presidential Elections

Wednesday–April 1–1998

Mr. Speaker–the voters in Armenia have elected Robert Kocharian as their president. With 99 percent of the ballots from Monday’s run-off election counted–Robert Kocharian–currently the Prime Minister–who has served as acting President since early February–has received approximately 59 percent of the vote. His opponent–Karen Demirchian–who led Armenia when it was controlled by the Soviet Union–received about 41 percent of the vote. An estimated 68 percent of eligible voters participated in the run-off election.

Mr. Speaker–I think this is really significant because this really was a free election in Armenia. President Kocharian is a free-market advocate who has pledged to revitalize Armenia’s industrial sector and attract more foreign investment. I have met Mr. Kocharian on several occasions–and I believe he is a strong leader–a consensus-builder–and someone who is committed to democracy and economic development.

The election has been judged as peaceful–well-organized and legitimate by the Council of Europe–the Commonwealth of Independent States and other international observers. Even the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–the OSCE–which was harsh–and in my opinion unfairly so–in its criticism of the first-round election two weeks ago–even the OSCE has not questioned the outcome.

Mr. Speaker–allow me to read a quote from Lord Russell-Johnson–head of the Council of Europe’s Monitoring Mission in Armenia: "The second round of the presidential voting was well-organized: the elections were passed peacefully and in accordance with the law. This is a steady step along the path towards Armenian accession to the Council of Europe."

Mr. Speaker–I’m pleased to report this very positive endorsement of Armenia’s democratic system by a respected and objective international election observer. Unfortunately–the OSCE–of which the United States is a member nation–has been somewhat more stingy in its praise for Armenia’s tremendous progress under very difficult conditions.

I must say that the OSCE has seemed to lean more heavily on Armenia–a democracy–than Azerbaijan which is–for all intents and purposes–a dictatorship. The OSCE has thus far taken an unrealistic approach to solving one of the region’s most important diplomatic and political challenges–and that is the resolution of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh–the Armenian ethnic enclave that Joseph Stalin gave to Azerbaijan–but which has been Armenian territory for centuries. The people of Karabakh won their independence in a war with Azerbaijan. A cease-fire has been in place since 1994–but Azerbaijan still claims Karabakh as its own. And the international community–the OSCE and–I’m sorry to say–the United States–continues to side with Azerbaijan over Karabakh. I raise the issue of Karabakh because it has been an important backdrop to the elections just concluded in Armenia. Most observers believe that the decision of former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan to resign was based on the widespread criticism he received within Armenia for accepting the OSCE peace plan for Nagorno-Karabakh–which was based on unilateral concessions in favor of Azerbaijan without safeguards for Karabakh’s security. Now that it has become clear that the OSCE plan is a non-starter in Armenia–I hope the OSCE–with strong American leadership–will work with the parties to the conflict to develop a serious plan for resolving the conflict.

Furthermore–President Kocharian is the former president of Nagorno-Karabakh–and he has been outspoken in his view that the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations must include the democratically-elected government of Karabakh.

Mr. Speaker–the important thing for us to bear in mind now is that the voters of Armenia have elected Robert Kocharian to a five-year term as their president. The entire process of the last two months–former President Ter-Petrosyan’s resignation–Acting President Kocharian’s interim service until the elections–and Mr. Kocharian’s victory in the legitimate elections just completed–was conducted in the spirit of a civil society governed by the rule of law and democracy. I want to congratulate Robert Kocharian on his election–and I want to salute the people of Armenia for making amazing democratic progress despite tremendous obstacles.

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