Unity Communist ARF Blocs Lead in Elections

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s went to polling stations Sunday to vote for a new National Assembly. Results published Tuesday by the Central Electoral Commission indicated that the alliance between Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsyan and former Communist Party chief Karen Demirchian walked away with 43.4 percent of the votes–while the Communist Party of Armenia garnered 12.5 percent of the votes followed by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation which garnered 7.86 percent.

Trailing in fourth place was the Rights and Unity Bloc at 7.43 percent–the at National Democratic Union at 5.39 percent and the Country of Laws bloc at 5.32 percent.

These results reflect the vote in the proportional system–which allocates 56 out of 131 seats in the next parliament to the parties or blocs receiving the most votes. The majoritarian slate then occupies the remaining 75 seats–which can also represent parties or blocs vying for power in the National Assembly.

Controversial former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian was elected in his native district in the Tavoush region. However–his party–the Armenian National Movement garnered only 1.2 percent of the votes–thus ending an eight-year rule in the country.

As has been the case in the past–numerous parties–among them the ARF–pointed out irregularities in the voting process–with thousands of voters leaving polling stations without having voted–since their names did not appear on voter lists.

Discrepancies in the voter registration lists were deemed as the main obstacle for a smooth and fair election process.

Estimations place the entire voter turnout at 50 percent of the 2.2 million registered voters.

In speaking to foreign journalists Monday–Central Electoral Commission chairman Artak Sahradian declared that the inaccuracies in voter registration–according to his observations–amounted to five to six percent of the entire voting population–thus the alleged violations would not affect the final election outcome.

According to IFES Director Andre Buchard–the elections mainly proceeded without violations. At the same time–Buchard said that the inaccuracies in voter registers were an obstacle for citizens wanting to participate in the polls.

Sahradian said that the National Assembly elections were valid–acknowledging inaccuracies in voter registration.

He pointed out–however–that the inaccuracies were not large-scale and the elections would not be annulled.

According to Sahradian–observers from the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly were surprised that citizens of Armenia not only went to the polls but also applied to the courts to be allowed to vote.

"Today our people conducted itself not in an ordinary way. They wanted not only to form the National Assembly but also to vote for favorite deputies. In this context–according to him–the course of elections can be assessed positively.

According to the CEC chair–although observers were very prudent in giving assessmen’s–nevertheless–the CIS observers made a positive assessment–the Council of Europe also expressed positive remarks.

Elsewhere around Armenia–President Robert Kocharian visited several polling stations and precincts–following which he answered questions from journalists.

"There are some minor inconsistencies in voter registrations–which are settled quite efficiently through the courts–all through the night similar processes were taking place," Kocharian said adding that during his meeting Sunday with international election monitors he was told of great strides in the election process in comparison to previous polls held in Armenia.

Aside from a well-managed election process–the Armenian president emphasized the need for the emergence of a new political culture on the part of the participants in the election campaigns.

Expressing confidence that the National Assembly formed as a result of the elections will reflect the real correlation of forces–Kocharian said that the next issue will be to make preparations for the first session of the newly elected National Assembly–to form parliamentary governing bodies–commissions–after which a more clear picture will emerge.

The ARF information and analysis service accused a proxy of the Unity bloc of violating the secret ballot principle in the elections.

Gegham Manoukian said that a Unity bloc proxy at a polling station in Aragatsavan village would review voters’ ballots and later allow them to cast their votes. Manoukian’s criticism was echoed elsewhere as eyewitnesses asserted that ARF and NDU candidate names were deliberately left off the lists.

The first violation in the election process was registered at the 13th precinct located at the Chekhov secondary school. Famous actor and ARF member Sos Sargssian was deprived of the right to vote–because of inaccuracies in voter registrations. Sargssian said that he was not going to take the action to court.

Before entering a polling station–Sos Sargssian voiced hope that the elections will be quite fair.

"Today the people of Armenia are clarifying their present and future today. If we display seriousness and elect the worthy ones–if we really value our vote–realize that it is not a mere voting for or against a candidate–but that it is done for the sake of our children–it seems to me that there will be a certain positive shift following the elections."

In the United States (Washington–Los Angeles–New York) 146 voters participated in the elections–with six of them voting against all. The Unity bloc received 50 votes–ARF – 51–Worthy Future – 11–NDU – 6–ANM – 2–Shamiram – 4–Azatutiun – 3–Hayrenik -2–DPA – 2–the Union of Socialist Forces and Intelligentsia bloc–RAPA–and the Law & Unity bloc – 1 vote each. Three ballots were declared invalid.

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