Presidential elections will go to a second round
of voting after a day of drama, intrigue, and
controversy ended with the incumbent Robert Kocharyan
failing to secure a second term by the narrowest
Kocharyan polled 49.8 percent, just below the
50 per cent plus one vote required to secure outright
victory in the first round balloting on Wednesday.
He will face Stepan Demirchyan, the second-placed
candidate with 27.7 percent, in the run-off scheduled
for March 5.
Early reports on Thursday had given Kocharyan
51 per cent, prompting outraged accusations from
opposition candidates that he had stolen the election.
Kocharyan, 48, had declared throughout his campaign
that he was aiming for a first round win, but
opposition parties alleged widespread violations
and ballot fraud.
10,000 people attended a rally in Yerevan Thursday
afternoon called by Demirchyan's campaign. Several
opposition candidates and prominent politicians,
including former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhanissian,
declared their support for Demirchyan and insisted
that he, not Kocharyan, had been elected President.
Even as the protestors rallied, tabulation of
voting continued at the Central Election Commission
nearby. At 6pm, five hours after the deadline
set by law, CEC chairman Artak Sahradian announced
that a run-off was necessary.
Officials said the delay in reporting the result
was due to snowfall that has blanketed Armenia
this week and blocked roads in remote areas. However,
Syunik region, the most mountainous and remote
part of the country, returned figures in good
time - 70 percent backed Kocharyan.
International observers praised voting procedures
as generally "calm and well-administered"
but expressed concerns about the way votes were
counted (see related story).
an interview with ArmeniaNow, Peter Eicher, head
of the observer mission from the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said:
'The worst thing about the elections was ballot-stuffing
and in some cases open and impudent manipulation."
Kocharyan's campaign manager Serzh Sargsyan,
who is also Minister of Defense, insisted his
candidate would emerge as the winner. But he acknowledged
that the opposition campaigns had been more effective
"We consider this to be a vote of confidence
in the incumbent president," he told a news
conference. "We are confident that we will
win the run-off."
Most of the seven defeated opposition candidates
have already lined up behind Demirchyan's campaign.
But third-placed Artashes Geghamyan, who with
17 per cent support potentially holds the key
to the next round, has said he will announce his
intentions only after his National Unity party
The CEC said 1,464,093 votes were cast in the
first round, representing 61.9 percent of the
electorate. The winner in the next round will
take office as President of the Republic of Armenia
on March 15.