By Shakeh Avoyan
President Robert Kocharian was officially declared Tuesday the winner of last week’s disputed presidential election amid continuing opposition protests against alleged vote falsification. He is due to be sworn in for a second five-year term in office on April 9.
According to the final vote results announced by the Central Election Commission, Kocharian won 67.44 percent of 1,548,570 votes cast during the March run-off which international monitors said was not democratic because of “widespread” irregularities. His opposition challenger, Stepan Demirchian, got 32.56 percent.
“The Central Election Commission decides that Robert Kocharian has been elected president of the Republic of Armenia,” its chairman, Artak Sahradian, declared at a meeting held inside the commission’s heavily guarded building in Yerevan.
Two members of the nine-strong CEC representing opposition parties refused to endorse the official figures. Demirchian’s top election proxy, Vartan Mkrtchian, also refused to recognize them, citing “mass irregularities.”
“Several provisions of the Armenian constitution and laws were violated during the first and second rounds of the elections,” he said in a statement.
Mkrtchian complained that the authorities recounted ballots in only 20 polling stations after a three-day delay which he said they used to “remove traces of fraud.” The Demirchian campaign has demanded a recount in some 400 electoral precincts across the country.
Sahradian and Kocharian’s representative to the CEC, Artashes Kakoyan, rejected the fraud allegations. “He may not have been elected by a part of the electorate, but that was clearly a minority,” Kakoyan said. He admitted that some irregularities did take place, but insisted that those could not affect the election results.
As the final results were announced, about a hundred opposition activists continued to picket the CEC building surrounded by barbed wire and riot police. They set up a tent camp there on Sunday. The protest ended late on Monday. As one of its organizers, opposition leader Albert Bazeyan, explained: “We no longer have anything to do here.”
(RFE/RL photo: Riot police, positioned behind barbed wire, guarding the CEC offices.)