CE Calls on Both Sides to Ensure Clean Vote

PACE MISSION HEAD MEETS WITH ARMENIA’S CEC

YEREVAN (Armenpress/Council of Europe)–The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Walter Schwimmer called on Armenian authorities as well as the opposition forces on Tuesday to bear in mind that what the country needs now are free elections–accepted by all sides as fair and legitimate. "A repetition of the incidents that took place during and after the first round would mean a lost election for everybody–regardless of the outcome," Schwimmer said.

The Secretary General also voiced regret that the first round of the presidential elections was a missed opportunity for Armenia to abandon past electoral practices and win the confidence not only of the voters but also of the European public opinion. "Nevertheless–I stand by the conclusion made by the Council of Europe prior to the elections–the Armenian authorities do have the capacity to conduct free and fair elections".

At the same time–Schwimmer called on the authorities to release all detained demonstrators–to refrain from interfering with the media and to show utmost respect for their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. He urged the armed forces to avoid expressing any political position and invited all political factions and their supporters to respect the Constitution.

"A proper count and early and complete transparency concerning voting results would go a long way towards re-establishing faith in Armenia’s willingness to respect democratic rules," concluded Schwimmer.

Meanwhile–former president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Lord Russell Johnston–called on Armenian authorities to make every effort to ensure a free–clean and transparent vote in the second round of presidential election March 5.

Meeting on Tuesday with the chairman of Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) Artak Sahradian Johnston–who heads the PACE monitoring mission in Armenia–said the main task of authorities is to demonstrate that Armenia remains committed to its international obligations and will demonstrate that it is indeed moving towards democracy.

Speaking to reporters–Johnston said he had discussed a set of important questions with Armenian election authorities–stressing proper calculation and tabulation of vote returns "to avoid irregularities and vote fraud reported in the first round February 19."

"I was told that almost all reported cases of fraud are being investigated. The CEC chairman also provided explanations about other cases that are not intentional violation of the law," he said–but avoided to speak about the election campaign held ahead of the run off.

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