CE Head Sees ‘Election Lessons’ for Armenia

COUNCIL OF EUROPE HEAD SCHWIMMER CALLS HOLDING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS A MATTER OF "DIGNITY" FOR OFFICIAL YEREVAN

STRASBOURG (RFE/RL)–The secretary general of the Council of Europe Walter Schwimmer said on Wednesday that Armenia’should learn lessons from this year’s disputed presidential and parliamentary elections if it is to integrate further into the European community of nations.

"Only with free–fair and transparent elections will the country have a democratic future," Schwimmer said–reflecting Western disappointment with Armenian authorities’ handling of both [presidential and parliamentary] polls–described as deeply flawed by international observers.

Schwimmer said holding democratic elections should now be a matter of "dignity" for official Yerevan which has repeatedly given such assurances to the Council of Europe and other international institutions. Their strong criticism of electoral fraud has dealt a serious blow to Armenia’s international reputation.

On Monday the council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) was asked by one of its ad hoc committees to consider blocking participation of an Armenian parliamentary delegation at the next PACE session. Schwimmer dismissed the likelihood of such a punitive measure. The Austrian official hinted that serious sanctions against the country are not on the cards.

"Armenia’should not be isolated or feel isolated," he said.

Schwimmer further made it clear that the Council of Europe will be equally consistent in assessing national elections in neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia this fall. The two countries will elect a president and a parliament respectively. Opposition forces there are already expressing concern about the freedom and fairness of the votes.

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