CEC Gives Final Vote Results Demirchian Mulls Debate

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Armenia released on Tuesday final official results of the February 19 presidential elections.

According to the statement–1,463,499 voters–of the 2,315,410 eligible– registered and received ballots on February 19. The number of valid ballots is 1,426,223; 36,160 ballots were invalid–and 9,866 voters have voted against all candidates.

The following is a breakdown of votes received by individual candidates:

Robert Kocharian 1,416,357 (49.48 percent); Stepan Demirchian 399,757 (28.22 percent); Artashes Geghamian 250,145 (17.6 percent); Aram Karapetian 41,795 (2.95 percent); Vazgen Manukian 12,904 (0.91 percent); Ruben Avagian 5,788 (0.41 percent); Aram Sargsyan 3,034 (0.21 percent); Aram Harutyunian 1,272 (0.09 percent); Garnik Markarian 854 votes (0.06 percent). Total number of errors registered is 2536.

The statement was signed by seven out of nine CEC members. Based on the statement–the CEC approved a decision to hold a second round of elections on March 5. Two candidates–Robert Kocharian and Stepan Demirchian–having collected the majority of votes–will face-off in the second round.

Speaking to ITAR-TASS on Monday–a US State Department official urged Armenian political forces to "remain calm" and conduct "fair and transparent" election run-offs on March 5. The official said it is crucial to provide prompt reporting of vote tallies on all the levels.

He congratulated Armenia’s on behalf of the US State Department for high voter turnout in the first round of the presidential polls–citing OSCE and PACE monitoring mission reports that described the election as being "held in a generally peaceful and well-organized environment."

He added that the OSCE–PACE and US experts agree that the vote count on February 19 was not faultless and that the election process fell below international standards in a number of key aspects.

PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

As a precondition to his participation in a presidential debate–Stepan Demirchian stated–through spokesperson Rusan Kachatrian–that debate topics must focus on issues other than those suggested by Armenian Public TV–those being foreign policy–the Nagorno Karabakh negotiations–domestic policy–social and economic issues–and election platforms.

"We should be in the position to propose the discussion topics–the first topic being the February 19 vote and legitimacy–and only then our candidate will talk about the above mentioned topics," Khachatrian said.

She said that Kocharian would be defeated in any debate–and in any election.

She continued to bash the what she termed "untimely commen’s," made by the Armenian Public TV–saying: "Gentlemen–you are so far from being professionals that you do not have the right to work not only for the Public TV of Armenia but also even the smallest TV station in some village."

CRIMINALS DESTABILIZE SITUATION

Government sources said a total of 122 individuals taken into custody for causing disturbances at public rallies organized by presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian’s–54 have been sentenced to between 3 and 15 days in jail–while 68 were been fined and released.

Most of those detained are former convicts with records for battery–theft–’hooliganism,’ illegal arms possession–and selling drugs.

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