Armenians marked their Presidential Election ballots
with hope for a new future, early indications
are that past irregularities are still very much
part of the present election process.
With two hours still to go before polls close
local and foreign observers are saying today's
runoff looked much like February 19's preliminary,
which the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe said "did not meet international
fact, one international observer called today's
On February 19, President Robert Kocharyan fell
.5 percent short of the required 50 percent to
win outright. Stepan Demirchyan was the runner-up
with 28.2 percent.
The Demirchyan/Kocharyan runoff, this one on
the 50th anniversary of the death of Josef Stalin,
is a repeat of five years ago. In 1998 Kocharyan
faced Demirchyan's father, Karen, who later became
one of eight assassination victims when terrorists
stormed Parliament October 27, 1999.
Early evaluations came as Central Election Commission
reports were showing a slight increase in voter
turnout over the preliminary. As of 5 p.m., 50.02
percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, compared
to 43.82 percent at the same time on February
Representative of complaints reported to journalists
or observers were:
- In the Yerevan district of Nor Nork several
hundred soldiers were brought to vote. Before
casting the votes, soldiers were observed showing
their marked ballots first to an officer and
then to a Kocharyan proxy.
An OSCE observer reported that the soldiers
stopped the process upon learning that an international
observer was on hand.
- Artak Sargsyan, 27, a Demirchyan voting station
proxy at Arabkir district School No. 132 says
he was beaten by police who accused him of interfering
with the election process.
Sargsyan says police started to pull him from
the station and when he resisted they took away
his brother Armen, also a proxy, and also confiscated
Artak Sargsyan's car.
Sargsyan was not injured but his clothes were
- In Echmiadzin kindergarten employee Kanarik
Galstyan told ArmeniaNow she was offered a chance
to vote twice. Further she says she was threatened
with being fired if she did not vote for Kocharyan.
The kindergarten where she works is a poling
station, however her registration is at Public
School No. 11 next door.
The director of the kindergarten is also in
charge of its poling station and according to
Galstyan told his employees to "go to the
school and vote and then come back and vote
here. The rest is not your problem."
"If they're breaking the law and it is
not discovered, it is better for me," Galstyan
said. "I'll go there and vote for Demirchyan
and then come here and vote for him again."
stations opened at 8 a.m., and by noon Demirchyan's
team had already declared the runoff flawed.
Two Yerevan newspapers had made the same assessment
even before the voting began.
Aravot ("Morning") and Haykakan Zhamanak
("Armenian Times") each had front page
stories and photographs today of ballots, some
marked in favor of Kocharyan and some blank, stamped
and ready to be placed in voting boxes.
Both papers said ballots were delivered to their
newsrooms late last night.
"According to some estimation from 400
to 600 signed and stamped ballots have been taken
from poling stations throughout the country,"
Aravot wrote, adding that it had sent two copies
of the ballots to all the embassies in Yerevan.
Neither newspaper said how they obtained the
Allegations of wrongdoing began to fly from Demirchyan
headquarters late yesterday, when campaign aides
accused election authorities of plotting against
Demirchyan by disallowing his representatives
on various electoral commissions.
Opposition parties accused officials of trying
to manipulate election returns by ridding commissions
of Demirchyan-affiliated members. Some were dismissed,
election officials said, because they had not
attended pre-election meetings. But Demirchyan
aides countered that those accused of absenteeism
had not been notified of the meetings.
Deputy chairman of the Central Election Commission
Hamlet Abrahamyan confirmed that commissioners
were resigning or were being removed "en
has obtained a letter showing that in at least
one of those cases one commission member says
he was not the author of his "resignation"
The one-sentence hand-written letter, written
February 26 says: "I ask to be exempt from
responsibilities of a commission member."
But Aram Zakaryan says he did not write that
letter and appealed to Electoral Commission District
6 president L. Danielyan.
"I inform you that the application is not
written by me. I do not agree with the application
and ask to restore my authorities as a commission
A representative of one of several international
monitoring groups told ArmeniaNow late today that
matters were "not looking good" toward
improvement over previous elections. Ask to compare
today's reports of violations to those reported
during the preliminary election, the representative
said today was "worse".
And the head of It's Your Choice, a non-governmental
organization with 1,000 election monitors (300
in Yerevan and 700 in the regions), Harutyun Hambartsumyan,
said that though it was too early to draw comparisons
to February 19, his group has reports of "numerous
(ArmeniaNow reporters Zhanna
Hakobyan and Vahan Ishkhanyan contributed
to this report.)