Kocharian Congratulates Nation amidst Opposition Complaints

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Initial preliminary voting results–announced by Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) Tuesday morning–reveal that Armenia’s leadership has won sweeping support for a constitutional reform in Sunday’s referendum–denounced by the opposition as fraudulent.

Electoral commission chief Garegin Azaryan reported that 64 percent of almost 2.3 million eligible voters took part in the referendum–more than enough for it to be considered valid. Azaryan said out of 1,503,567 voters who went to the polls–1,403,000 (93 percent) voted for the proposed changes.

After hearing the official results–President Robert Kocharian congratulated his country for passing the constitutional amendmen’s–which European and American organizations said would speed up the country’s democratization and European integration.

"Fellow countrymen–I congratulate you on the occasion of saying an unequivocal and resolute ‘yes’ to the proposed amendmen’s. It is a big victory for further strengthening of democracy and formation of the civic society in Armenia," read Kocharian’s message to the nation.

The president also thanked those citizens who showed they were not indifferent to the future of their country and went to the polls.

"I think there are no losers or winners in the referendum. The constitution is for everybody and now is the time to work in concert for development of stemming legislation," his message says.

"The reformed constitution is the path to make Armenia a prosperous country in the 21st century," he said.

The official results were denounced by the opposition–who had asked their supporters to boycott the ballot. Even before the polling stations closed on Sunday it charged that the figures were wrong and called on their supporters to gather for an anti-government rally.

At the rally–police officials ordered people to disperse as the opposition did not have a permission to conduct the rally. Organizers said 10,000 supporters gathered for the rally but police put the number at no more than 3,000.

The opposition gave an ultimatum to the CEC–according to which the latter must state the results of the referendum invalid during 72 hours. If it does not they will organize another rally which will be "within the limits of law."

Justice opposition bloc leader Stepan Demirchian vowed the opposition will "join forces to campaign for a change of power in Armenia."

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