For Sake of Stability ARF Validates Election

NEVERTHELESS CONSIDERS PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION NOT FULLY FREE AND FAIR–"MARRED BY SWEEPING IRREGULARITIES AND VIOLENCE."

YEREVAN (Yerkir–RFE/RL)–Addressing widespread irregularities during the May 25 parliamentary elections in Armenia–ARF Supreme Body member Aghvan Vardanian released the ARF’s statement on the matter during a press conference at the Simon Vratsian Center in Yerevan on Monday.

The statement stresses that during the pre-election campaign period–political forces and National Assembly candidates–in general–had a chance to conduct their campaigns without complications–"but the voting that took place on May 25 cannot be assessed as fully free–fair and transparent."

In its analysis–the ARF concludes that the Republican Party (HHK) fully utilized the state’s administrative resources to artificially inflate votes in its favor and in favor of political parties and candidates it was supporting. In addition–the statement cites that the voting process in six electoral districts were marred by sweeping irregularities and violence.

"The blatant buying and selling of votes laid the dangerous groundwork for political immorality in the country," the statement said.

The statement stresses that the ARF considers the elections "valid" for the sake of continued political stability.

"We wish the majority force success–urging it at the same time to be conscious of difficult internal and external political–economic–social and psychological challenges facing the country and act with that responsibility," it said.

"We guarantee that we will be pursuing–to our utmost capabilities–the realization of goals and programs we put forward in our pre-election campaign," the statement concluded.

Asked whether the ARF will take up the offer to join a coalition government–Vardanian replied–"We have received an offer. . . The issue is still under consideration." Vardanian made it clear that changes must take place in government. "Administrative and ethical responsibilities of top officials are crucial; for the public’s sake–we need the mechanism to ensure officials are accountable for their actions."

On the same question–ARF Supreme Body of Armenia representative Armen Rustamian conveyed that the ARF is not going after posts in a coalition government. "More important for us are the principles on which the coalition [government] is to be formed. The responsibility of each party should be determined–and program priorities should be outlined," Rustamian said–adding that the government’s program should correspond to that of the President.

Last week–Prime Minister Margarian said the ARF must share with the Republicans full responsibility for his government’s policies if they are to get ministerial posts. He also made it clear that the HHK will not cede control of the Defense Ministry and other security agencies.

Vartanian scoffed at the remarks–describing them as "odd."Nobody has ever thought that the post of defense minister is owned by the Republican Party," he told reporters–noting that it is the President who appoints the prime minister–and it is too early to jump to conclusions. He emphasized that despite Republican claims–the program currently being implemented is that of the President.

The ARF will contest in Constitutional Court–the results of three electoral districts–and is demanding that–in districts where election results have been considered void–a fair and transparent re-vote be held.

Vardanian also described the voting process in district 29 as "inexplicable. " ‘The ballot box was first stolen–and when it was returned after 5 hours–it turns out that the Orinats Yerkir candidate and the Republican party had received additional 3,000 votes."

As far as the proposed constitutional amendmen’s that failed to garner the required votes for passage–the ARF will continue supporting them because–as Rustamian said–"the amendmen’s would have contributed to reforms in the government and political system." The ARF will also attempt to remove the single-mandate (individual constituency) system–as most of the irregularities stem from this process.

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