OSCE Striving To Defuse Armenia’s Post-Election Crisis

By Jean-Christophe

March 14 2008

The OSCE’s diplomatic point man for handling Armenia’s domestic
crisis is not confident that political dialogue can restore a sense
of stability in Yerevan.

Heikki Talvitie, the diplomatic troubleshooter designated by OSCE
Chairman-in-Office Ilkka Kanerva to promote an end to the Armenian
crisis, addressed the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on March 13,
reporting on his talks with various Armenian political leaders. [For
background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

In general, Talvitie did not sound overly optimistic about the
prospects of the OSCE’s mediation efforts. "Whether we will succeed
in this, we will see in the near future," he told representatives of
the organization’s 56 participating states.

He said his own discussions with President Robert Kocharian,
President-elect Serzh Sarkisian and the main opposition leader Levon
Ter-Petrosian did not leave him with an impression that there was much
common ground. "The government didn’t see too many possibilities to
open a dialog with Ter-Petrosian. On the other hand, Ter-Petrosian
was also very reluctant to make any move towards the government at
that point," Talvitie said.

During his presentation, Talvitie called for the quick lifting of a
state of emergency in Armenia. At about the same time he was speaking
in Vienna, Armenian President Robert Kocharian announced the lifting
of media restrictions that had been imposed under a state of emergency
on March 1. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Despite Kocharian’s announcement, at least five independent news
websites in Armenia that have been blocked since the start of the
state of emergency – including À1+ and Haykakan Zhamanak – remained
unavailable to readers on March 14.

As it strives to promote the return of political stability in
Yerevan, the OSCE is intent on defending its own reputation as
a democracy-building organization. Many opposition supporters in
Armenia hold the OSCE and its Office for Democratic Institutions and
Human Rights partly responsible for the crisis.

In an op-ed published in the March 5 issue of the "Washington Post,"
opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian blamed Western nations in general
and ODIHR election observers in particular for turning a blind eye
to what he described as successful government efforts to rig the
election campaign. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

"What surprised and dismayed us was the deafening silence from the
West. What dismayed us even more was the technical report of the
observer mission from the [OSCE,] which rubber-stamped [Sarkisian’s]
farcical claim of victory," Ter-Petrosian wrote. [For background see
the Eurasia Insight archive].

In earlier comments, Ter-Petrosian had said he was holding the
government and international election observers equally responsible
for the alleged fraud.

The ODIHR-coordinated International Election Observation Mission
concluded on February 20 that, despite a number of shortcomings,
the presidential ballot had been "competitive" and "mostly in line
with OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards." [For
background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

While sticking to its initial statement, ODIHR subsequently gave a more
nuanced assessment of the ballot. In its first post-election report,
in early March, the mission said observers documented anomalies in a
number of polling stations and territorial election commissions. Among
the documented irregularities were flawed recounts, an "implausibly
high voter turnout," results for Sarkisian "in excess of 99 percent,"
and discrepancies between the number of votes and the number of
ballots issued to voters. The report also says the way Armenia’s
central election body handled complaints "raises concern about its
commitment to ensure the protection of citizen’s electoral rights."

How Kocharian’s opponents interpret those conclusions is unclear.

Under state of emergency restrictions, it was difficult for members
of the opposition to gain access to news accounts of the election
mission’s post-vote findings.

Editor’s Note: Jean-Christophe Peuch is a Vienna-based freelance
correspondent, who specializes in Caucasus- and Central Asia-related

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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS