Constitutional Court Rejects Election Appeal

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s Constitutional Court rejected on Monday the first of two appeals against the official results of the recent presidential elections.

Chief Justice Gagik Harutiunian relayed the court’s finding that Artashes Geghamian–a leading opposition candidate–failed to submit sufficient evidence to support his claim that the February 19 first-round vote was sufficiently flawed to be declared invalid.

Geghamian’s lawyers had also demanded that the panel of nine judges annul the decision by the Central Election Commission (CEC) to hold a run-off vote on March 5.

The court endorsed only a small part of the allegations–concluding that they could not have affected the outcome of the first round–in which President Robert Kocharian received 49.8 percent of the vote to 27.4 percent for his main opponent–Stepan Demirchian.

The ruling–read out by Harutiunian–says the CEC’s decision to announce a second round of voting based on preliminary voting results–without first determining the extent of any inaccuracies–contradicted Armenia’s election law and thereby contributed to "the atmosphere of mistrust" in the official vote results.

CEC lawyers admitted that the commission’s February decision to call the run-off vote was not in strict adherence to the Armenian Electoral Code. Article 63 of the code stipulates that a runoff can be officially announced only if the final results of the first round show that none of the presidential candidates passed the 50% threshold for winning outright. The CEC set a date for the second round five days before publishing the final first-round figures.

The Constitutional Court ordered the CEC last week to recount ballots in 11 polling stations where serious irregularities were reported by various opposition proxies and some international observers. The CEC said the recount–boycotted by Geghamian’s representatives–produced no evidence of fraud.

The Constitutional Court is also due to consider a separate appeal from the Demirchian campaign against the official results of the March 5 runoff–which showed Kocharian easily winning a second term in office. Demirchian insists that the ballot was rigged in the incumbent’s favor–a charge denied by the latter.

The court will set a date on Wednesday for the start of proceedings. Three lawyers from the Council of Europe are expected to arrive in Armenia to monitor them.

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