Defense Minister on Elections and Stability

YEREVAN (Armenpress–Noyan Tapan–RFE/RL)-Claiming that "the presidential runoff was rigged," the leader of People’s Party of Armenia (PPA) Demirchian–the loser in the second round of Armenian presidential elections held on March 5–said that he does not recognize the outcome of the polls and will appeal to the Constitutional Court as well as the Prosecutor’s Office to pursue action against the Central Election Commission.

Although Demirchian did not recognize the results of the first round of presidential election as valid–he nevertheless entered the runoff–so as not to "surrender."

The preliminary results of the second round of presidential elections in Armenia’show that 1,596,204 voters participated in the election process in Armenia and abroad; Demirchian collected 503,136 votes–giving him 32.5 percent of the total vote; the incumbent Robert Kocharian received 1,045,801 votes for 67.5 percent of the total vote. The number of errors registered stood at 3,138.

Armenia’s defense minister Serge Sarkisian–who headed Kocharian’s re-election campaign–commented that post election developmen’s do not signal instability–but added that the situation does not depend on pro-government forces alone. "I cannot comment on the opposition’s future moves," he said–shrugging off opposition claims of widespread violations.

Speaking at a news conference at Kocharian’s campaign headquarters–Sarkisian referred to OSCE and PACE monitoring reports that noted "serious irregularities in many polling stations." Sarkisian said the observers based their conclusion on irregularities registered in only 13 percent of 1,864 electoral precincts scattered around Armenia. "Unfortunately–there were quite a few cases where observers publicly thanked members of election commissions but afterwards claimed violations in their reports."

"If we put emotions aside– the only thing that remains is the fact that the representatives of the OSCE monitoring mission visited many polling stations and in 87 percent of them did not have any problems. But in the remaining 13 percent they met some breaches and considered them as grounds for their conclusion."

He also referred to contradictory assessmen’s of CIS and OSCE monitoring missions–saying that the reason for the contradiction is that CIS monitors know our psychology and reality. "People who live in Europe cannot explain certain phenomenon that exist in our reality. " Sarkissian said.

Concerning opposition statemen’s not recognizing the results of the election–Sarkissian stressed that he had predicted months ago the opposition would resort to rejecting the vote . "On the other side–however–we respect the opinion of all citizens and their right to defend them within the framework of law. If our opposition believes that violations took place–they can apply to the courts. As yet–he said that no complaints had been submitted to the court.

US ‘DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED’ WITH ARMENIAN VOTE

"Armenia’s leadership missed an important opportunity to advance democratization by holding a credible election," the US State Department spokesman–Richard Boucher–said in a statement circulated Friday by the US Embassy in Yerevan. "We call on the Government to get on the road to building a democratic Armenia–beginning with a full and transparent investigation of election irregularities–accountability for those responsible–and other steps to restore public confidence."

LEADERS CONGRATULATE KOCHARIAN

His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of Holy See of Cilicia sent a congratulatory message to President Robert Kocharian–praising his honest dedication in pursuing Armenian national interests–particularly socioeconomic development–the Nagorno Karabagh regulation process–as well as efforts to strengthen Armenia-Diaspora ties. The Catholicos expressed confidence that Kocharian would continue his mission of honest service to the motherland and to the Armenian people–and stressed continued support to Armenian statehood and to the President himself-in all efforts undertaken to strengthen Armenia. "We wish you health and service full of patriotic achievemen’s," concludes the message.

Chairman of the CIS Council of Heads of State–President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine also congratulated Armenia’s president Robert Kocharian on his re-election. Kocharian’s press secretary said congratulations came also from President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

Russia’s President Putin sent his congratulatory message to Kocharian on Thursday–a portion of which states–"I’m sincerely glad to congratulate you on the occasion of your victory in the presidential polls and wish you further success in this top state position. Your success in the elections once again demonstrates that Armenia’s are committed irrevocably for democratic improvemen’s and development of market relations–for the maintenance of good relations and mutually beneficial co-operation policy with its neighbors. Russian people appreciate your personal contribution to the development of Russian-Armenian traditionally friendly and allied relations…

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