Kocharian Says Time to Get Down to Work

YEREVAN (Armenpress–RFE/RL–Yerkir)–In his first public comment since the second round of presidential elections in Armenia–President Robert Kocharian said the best way to overcome tensions that have emerged in the aftermath of presidential elections was to get down to creative work.

Speaking at a press conference–Kocharian looked undaunted by opposition protests and rebuked opposition leaders for "shifting the conflict between political forces and individuals–to the electorate–thus jeopardizing the country’s stability."

He warned that the opposition’s stance may affect the investment environment–which in turn would harm every citizen.

He argued that there is enough potential to restore stability and asked not to hinder his work–particularly his pledge to create additional 40,000 jobs this year.

Kocharian said he was satisfied with the outcome of the election–but added that many shortcomings could have been avoided in the event of a better handling of the vote.

Downplaying opposition allegations of a fraudulent vote–Kocharian said the conduct of the opposition was predictable long before the outcome of elections.

"The difference between the received votes is so big that it is sufficient to reject any speculations," he said–but welcomed the opposition’s move to seek revision of the vote in Constitutional Court.

Speaking about filed complaints–Kocharian said they were registered in 123 polling stations–and the ballot boxes were reopened and counted in 45 of them [before OSCE and PACE monitors]–but no change was registered. The remaining ballot boxes were not opened because either proxies refused to participate–or it was discovered that the authors of applications-complaints don’t exist at all. "It turned out that people speaking about falsifications had fabricated complaints about falsifications."

Kocharian’s opposition challenger–Stepan Demirchian–has refused to concede his defeat–saying that the authorities falsified the two-round election in favor of the 48-year-old incumbent. Demirchian and his opposition allies have demanded new elections and vowed to keep up pressure on the authorities with a series of street protests.

Since Armenia has joined the Council of Europe–"assessmen’s are stricter than we expected." said Kocharian–adding that if elections in Armenia are compared to those in Western Europe– it is obvious that they will not correspond to international standards. "But if we take into account that Armenia has been an independent country for just 12 years–as well as the existing Soviet backlash–the approach could be softer.

While regretting the criticism–Kocharian said that international observers can not question his legitimacy. "Unfortunately–there is a notion that someone else has to certify our election results," he said. "Nobody should do that. We are an independent country and that independence must be respected."

"In fact the European monitors expected more than we could ensure at this moment," he said.

He also assured that his straightforward approach on the Karabagh issue would not waiver by the though position of OSCE observers in connection to presidential elections. "Our position is clear and we continue to adhere to this position." Iran–Japan–Poland Congratulate Kocharian

Iran’s President Mohammed Khatami congratulated Kocharian on his re-election–mentioning that friendly relations between the two countries–aimed at strengthening peace in the region–will expand and develop in all the areas of cooperation.

Japan’s Prime Minister Unichiro Koizumi–congratulating Kocharian–wrote "The relationship between Japan and Armenia is developing rapidly. A warm reception took place during the visit of His Excellency to Japan in December of 2001. Then–we signed a joint declaration on cooperation and good relations between Japan and Armenia. I hope that favorable bilateral relations will be further developed in the future."

The President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski also congratulated Kocharian–saying "I wish you successful continuation of economic and political reforms in the Republic of Armenia. I am sure that Armenia’s already positive economic development–apparent by Armenia’s membership in the World Trade Organization–will strengthen with your leadership. . . Poland is ready to help Armenia and share its experience of transition and integration into European architecture."

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