observers invited to Armenia to monitor Wednesday's
Presidential elections declared yesterday that
the vote was "generally calm and well administrated
but the counting process was flawed and the long-term
election process fell short of international standards
in several key respects."
In the preliminary conclusion declared to journalists
gathered in the conference hall of the Hotel Armenia
the observers announced that "serious irregularities
did not enable us to make an overall positive
The joint statement represented reports of the
200-strong international election observation
mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions
and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The observers noted that the voting process
was generally well-conducted, though there were
cases of ballot-box stuffing and intimidation
of candidate proxies. There was an enthusiastic
countrywide campaign with active public participation,
the observers said.
But their report noted that serious irregularities
took place during the count in a number of polling
stations visited by the international observers.
"While we were pleased to see an active
and vigorous campaign, we are concerned about
serious shortcomings that were evident during
the run up to the elections," said Peter
Eicher, the head of the OSCE long-term observer
The head of the PACE delegation Lord Russell-Johnston
said that he went to 11 polling stations and his
impression was generally favorable, because he
saw friendly people and a good-natured atmosphere.
"But those who attended counts were more
critical. The problems appearing during counting
made it difficult to give positive estimation,"
The February 19 election was the forth presidential
elections since Armenia declared independence
in 1991 and the first since Armenia became a member
of the Council of Europe.
In the preliminary conclusion the observers noted
that the previous presidential elections were
characterized by serious flaws and generally did
not meet international standards.
As such this election provided an important test
of the progress of democratic practice in Armenia.
Asked if these elections showed improvements
over the 1998 campaign, Eicher said the observers
were in Armenia to compare elections to international
standards not to the previous elections.
Eicher and Johnston were asked if Wednesday's
election outcome was legitimate, given observers'
findings. Eicher answered that the observer mission
was only aimed at examining the process, while
Russell-Johnston deferred from answering.
In a number of positive elements which were evident
in the election process the observers mentioned
the participation of nine candidates who provided
voters with a genuine choice, the vigorous country-wide
campaign, a recently amended election law providing
a basis for democratic elections and the voting,
counting and tabulation processes were generally
As significant shortcomings in regards to international
standards the observers report said that pre-election
- Was marred by intimidation and by incidents
of disruption of campaign events, including
a serious incidence of violence;
- The Public TV failed to comply with the legal
obligation to provide balanced and unbiased
reporting on candidates, violating of principals
of equal access for all candidates;
- There was evidence of pre-election manipulations,
such as schemes to impersonate voters and use
of inducements to secure votes;
- Public resources were heavily used in support
of the incumbent, representing a pattern of
unequal treatment of candidates.
Another monitoring group, the mission of the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) made
a statement at a press-conference on Thursday
announcing that the elections were free, fair,
transparent and democratic.
Yuri Yarov, the Executive Secretary of the CIS
announced elections were held in conformity with
the Electoral Legislation.
According to a statement of the CIS mission all
the necessary measures on holding the Presidential
election in conformity with international standards
were taken in Armenia. The CIS report also stated
that the statement of six oppositional candidates
urging the international observers to recognize
elections illegitimate is not based on any specific