State Department, NATO, EU Chime in on Elections

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The United States said Monday that Armenia’s parliamentary elections were a step in the right direction. Tom Casey, a spokesman for the State Department told a news briefing in Washington Monday that we do congratulate the Armenian people on their parliamentary elections and share with the international observers who were present the view that the election infrastructure has been greatly improved and that this is a step in the right direction towards meeting international standards. We do hope, however, that the Government of Armenia will aggressively investigate allegations that are there of electoral wrongdoing and prosecute people in accordance with Armenian law. So all and all, I think this is an improvement over past elections; though certainly if you look at what the observers said, it did not fully meet international standards, said Casey. There’s still some ways to go before you would have an election that fully meets all the international standards, he noted. In a preliminary report released on Sunday, the 400-strong monitoring mission led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the vote was conducted largely in accordance with international standards for democratic elections. It was the most positive assessment of Armenian elections ever made by the OSCE. The European Union rushed to praise the Armenian authorities conduct of the polls. The German government, the current holder the EUs rotating presidency, said they were on the whole free and fair. In a separate statement, the blocs foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said Armenia’s demonstrated greater political maturity trough these elections and sent a positive signal to other countries in the region. The US took a more cautious position, with Casey urging the authorities in Yerevan to aggressively investigate allegations that are there of electoral wrongdoing and prosecute people in accordance with Armenian law. Part of the election process is a careful consideration of all issues raised in connection with the election, including several serious allegations of fraud or intimidation which may have affected the outcome of some of the races, the statement said. It also noted that long-term OSCE observers are currently verifying figures reported by the Central Election Commission. Tone Tingsgaard, a top member of the observer mission representing the OSCEs Parliamentary Assembly, insisted on Sunday that irregularities reported by the Western monitors were not serious enough to affect the election outcome. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer praised Armenian authorities for holding the weekend’s parliamentary elections in Armenia in line with international monitors and largely in accordance with Armenia’s OSCE and Council of Europe commitmen’s. "I encourage the Armenian authorities to investigate thoroughly all complaints and to address the remaining problems identified by the international observers. NATO will continue to support Armenia’s reform efforts and to continue our strong cooperation in the Partnership for Peace," said the NATO leader. EU Special Representative in the South Caucasus Peter Semneby stated in an exclusive interview to Mediamax that Armenia passed the test and will continue to move closer to the EU. Semneby said this, commenting on his previous statemen’s, according to which the elections in Armenia would become an important test for the relations with the EU, as they would be the first ones after the start of the implementation of the Action Plan within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy. Yes, Armenia passed the test, which gives a good base for continuing to develop the partnership with the EU in the way we have envisaged. The high degree of interest in the election was a particularly encouraging proof of what appears to be a growing political and civic engagement, the EU Special representative stated. At the same time, Peter Semneby reminded in that Armenia has not received a perfect mark. The observer missions noticed some remaining problems, which ought to be eliminated before the presidential election next year. In particular, there was often no distinction between the ruling party and the State. There were also too many problems with the vote counting, added Semneby. He expressed hope that the new members of the Armenian parliament will be committed to making the parliament a forum for a vital and dynamic debate on the future direction of the country. The joint commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law is a cornerstone for the partnership between Armenia and the EU. I am confident that Armenia will continue to move closer to the EU, added Semneby.

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