Armenia Blasts OSCE Criticism of Election

YEREVAN (Reuters)–Armenia Wednesday criticized a report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe which said last month’s presidential election did not meet OSCE standards.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement in the capital Yerevan expressing bewilderment with the 20-page report–issued last week.

It said it did not understand why there were significant differences between the final OSCE report and the OSCE’s preliminary statement–issued two days after the runoff election in the former Soviet republic on April 1.

"In all likelihood we should look for the source of these contradictions inside the OSCE," the statement said.

"We don’t want to believe that the only organization – the OSCE – mediating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has any sort of prejudicial relationship toward Armenia."

The final OSCE report said: "The Extraordinary Presidential Election of March 16 and March 30 does not meet the OSCE standards to which Armenia has committed itself."

It said irregularities 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 international observers.

The much less detailed preliminary report on April 1 also mentioned irregularities but said: "The (election) shortcomings do not cause us to question their outcome."

Former prime minister Robert Kocharian was sworn in as 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 ex-Communist challenger Karen Demirchian.

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

The Foreign Ministry statement said that four other foreign observer groups had given the election a clean bill of health.

The Council of Europe–which had only two observers–issued a one-page statement on April 1 saying there was no doubt about the election’s legitimacy despite some irregularities.

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