Armenian Speaker Downplays OSCE Vote Criticism

ARMENIAN SPEAKER DOWNPLAYS OSCE VOTE CRITICISM
By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Radio Liberty, Czech Rep.
May 30 2007

A leading member of the governing Republican Party (HHK) downplayed
on Wednesday a follow-up report by the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe that contrasted with Western observers’ positive
assessment of the conduct of the Armenian parliamentary elections.

The report issued by the OSCE’s election observation mission late
last week stopped short of describing the May 12 vote as largely
democratic and stressed instead that counting of ballots in a large
number of polling stations was deeply flawed. It said OSCE monitors
found "discrepancies, some of them significant" between vote results
reported by various-level election commissions.

The mission’s preliminary findings, endorsed by observers from the
Council of Europe and the European Union, were more positive. Their
joint May 13 report concluded that the polls were "conducted largely
in accordance with international standards for democratic elections."

That gave a massive boost to the international legitimacy of the
official vote results that showed the HHK sweeping to a landslide
victory.

"It’s natural that [the two reports] are very different," Tigran
Torosian, the HHK’s deputy chairman and Armenia’s outgoing parliament
speaker, told RFE/RL. "It is natural that the overall tone [of the
post-election report] is less positive than that of the previous one
because they were supposed to talk only about shortcomings witnessed
during counting and tabulation of ballots."

Torosian insisted that the observers remain of the opinion that "on
the whole, the elections were a success and had nothing in common
with the previous elections" that were strongly criticized by the West.

Still, there are indications that the Armenian authorities are
worried about the latest report’s implications for the OSCE’s final
election verdict due to be announced by the end of next month. The
chairman of the Central Election Commission, Garegin Azarian, and
Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian promptly sent letters to the
head of the OSCE mission, Boris Frlec. Hovsepian asked the latter to
provide "concrete information about those electoral precincts where
the mentioned violations were recorded."

Hovsepian’s spokeswoman, Sona Truzian, said Frlec has still not
responded to the letter. Nonetheless, she said, the chief prosecutor
has instructed his subordinates to investigate violations reported
by the OSCE.

Meanwhile, the Armenian opposition, which is contesting the election
results in several lawsuits filed to the Constitutional Court, is
clearly buoyed by the criticism. "We thought that [the authorities]
managed to blindfold the observers who seemed to have not seen any
fraud," said Aram Sarkisian of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party.

"But as it turned out, people are quite informed."

"The scope of the struggle is widening, and the opposition is
having more hopes," Sarkisian told RFE/RL. "What the observers
stated substantiated the documents which we have submitted to the
Constitutional Court. I find that very positive."

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