OSCE Claims Election Not Up to Par

TBILISI–In what seems to be a biased policy–the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe claimed in a weekend report that presidential elections in Armenia did not meet its standards–Reuters news agency reported Monday

The 20-page OSCE report–made available to Reuters Monday–listed a wide range of irregularities and urged the authorities to carry out an investigation.

"The Extraordinary Presidential Election of March 16 and March 30 does not meet the OSCE standards to which Armenia has committed itself in the Copenhagen Document of 1990," said the report.

Robert Kocharian was sworn in as Armenian president for a five-year term last Thursday after winning 59.5 percent of the vote in the March 30 runoff contest–against 40.5 percent for challenger Karen Demirchian.

The OSCE fielded more than 180 foreign observers for the first round of voting and 140 for the runoff.

Elections in 1995 and 1996 in the former Soviet republic were also tainted by irregularities–according to OSCE monitors.

The report said that while there had been some improvemen’s in the 1998 vote–the previous flawed elections could not be used as a yardstick for measuring progress.

"The Copenhagen Document–Article 6–in which participating states declare to ‘recognize their responsibility to defend and protect–in accordance with their laws–their international human rights obligations and their international commitmen’s–the democratic order freely established through the will of the people,’ was seriously challenged in this election," it said.

The OSCE alleged that irregularities this time around included ballot box stuffing–discrepancies in the vote count–large numbers of unauthorized people in polling places and instances of intimidation of voters–election commission members and observers–according to the report.

Asked for a response–the Armenian Central Elections Commission told Reuters on Monday that it did not yet have a copy of the report.

In its preliminary report on April 1–the OSCE also mentioned voting irregularities but concluded: "The (election) shortcomings do not cause us to question their outcome."

The final OSCE report did not say whether or not the irregularities could have affected the outcome of the vote.

The Council of Europe–which sent only two observers for the runoff vote–said earlier this month that there had been some irregularities during the election but did not question its overall legitimacy.

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