- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 February 21, 2003 

Decision 2003: Kocharyan Faces Demirchyan in Run-Off

Armenia's 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 margin.

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.

Around 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).

In 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 than expected.

"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 executive meets.

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.


Observers say elections fall short of international standards

Full story


Voting day turned from fair to foul at some precincts

Full story


The son also rises

Full story


Geghamyan Goes from Candidate to Kingmaker

Full story


  Photos of the week
  Photo of the week: Talk Time
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Photo of the week: Talk Time
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Hope and Assurance

It has been a season of many emotions, Decision 2003. Doves of peace were offered and officers to enforce that peace were stationed around the Central Elections Commission.



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