Round Two Underway Amid Warnings on Turmoil’s Effects

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–In preparing for the second round of presidential elections–the incumbent Robert Kocharian–who had campaigned heavily in regions of Armenia in the first round of presidential elections–is now focusing on working closer with residents of Yerevan–as well as his campaign managers there. He met on Wednesday with hundreds of campaign staff at his main headquarters–and continued his meetings on Thursday by meeting with staff at his Malatia-Sebastia–Ajapniak–Shengavit–Kentron–and Arabkir headquarters.

In reviewing round one of Armenia’s presidential elections–the US ambassador to Armenia John Ordway met with Armenia’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) head Artak Sahradian–and revealed that he came away with mixed impression. "According to the ambassador–part of the precincts monitored by him functioned in a clear and flawless manner–while in the other precincts the observers registered unprofessional work and numerous shortcomings," the CEC said in a statement. Ordway monitored voting in 15 polling stations across Armenia on February 19.

Sahradian assured Ordway that everything would be done to avoid repetition of irregularities–and to provide democratic and fair elections in the second round. He stressed that the assessment of activity of the election system is greatly dependent on the work of districts election commissions; thus the CEC will center on their prompt and correct operation.

The director of USAID Armenia office Keith Simmons revealed his intention to monitor the second round of presidential polls in Armenia– promising support to CEC chairman in eliminating flaws–as well as registering those that may occur. Consequences of Turmoil Former head of the World Bank mission to Armenia–now Chief Economic Advisor to the President of Armenia Vahram Nercissiantz–warned on Thursday that drawn-out political turmoil will inevitably affect the country’s economy and scare off potential investors.

"The more the country’s stability is jeopardized–the more cautious business is,’ he said–adding that if "we fail to come to a mutual conclusion–I fear that both domestic and foreign investmen’s will be endangered with ensuing consequences for economic growth rate."

Chief manager of the Armenian Development Agency Vahagn Movsisian also voiced concerns over the ongoing mass rallies staged by the opposition–saying they will succeed in turning away potential investors who seek political stability as a precondition to invest.

The Administration of the Engineering Academy of Armenia (EAA) also released a statement calling the rally turmoil "totally inadmissible." Academy president Yuri Khojamirian said the post round one election struggle should be waged legitimately with the application of civilized methods and broad attraction of mass media. "The current rally passions coupled with violations of the law are incompatible with the norms of civilized society–to which the citizens of Armenia consider themselves to belong." Geghamian Takes Case To Constitutional Court Artashes Geghamian–the third-placed presidential candidate–appealed Thursday to Armenia’s Constitutional Court to annul the results of the first-round presidential election and call a fresh ballot.

Under Armenian law the Constitutional Court has to consider election-related cases within one month from its filing. Analysts believe that it is unlikely to hand down a ruling before the second round. This makes Geghamian allies skeptical about the success of their action. One of them–Aghasi Arshakian–said the invalidation of the polls would be an "incredible" scenario.

Arshakian explained that the main purpose of the appeal is to publicize the "widespread falsifications" that the Geghamian campaign claims to have registered during voting and counting process. "That could deter people from repeating the fraud in the future," he said.

They also ruled out the possibility of endorsing Kocharian’s main opponent–Stepan Demirchian–ahead of the March 5 run-off.

A top Geghamian aide–parliament deputy Hmayak Hovannisian–said Demirchian’s participation in the second round would amount to "complicity in the election-related crimes." He said opposition forces grouped around Demirchian are pursuing a "regime change at any cost."

Geghamian’s campaign manager–Aleksan Karapetian–also attacked the opposition alliance for lacking "concrete program" and failing to embrace the National Unity’s detailed "anti-crisis plan" publicized before the election campaign. "They demand nothing concrete except the resignation of the incumbent president," Karapetian said. Four Criminal Cases in Connection Riggings A special commission of the Prosecutor General’s Office–set up to register and investigate reports of violations in the February 19 RA presidential elections–released a report to the CEC yesterday–saying that the office received (as of February 24) 7 reports of violations during elections and that recently voiced reports of mass violations don’t correspond to reality.

The office has instituted one criminal case on the basis of materials submitted–while its regional office has instituted three such cases.

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