By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian thanked the electorate on Tuesday for what he saw as its “unequivocal and resolute” endorsement of his constitutional amendments which he said will usher in an era of prosperity for Armenia.
His three-party governing coalition, which co-authored the amendments, likewise claimed convincing victory in Sunday’s disputed referendum criticized by domestic and international monitors.
“This is a great victory in efforts to strengthen democracy and form civil society in Armenia,” Kocharian said in a written address to the nation. “I thank those citizens who did not prove indifferent to the country’s future and actively participated in the referendum.
“I believe that there could be no winners and losers in this referendum. The constitution belongs to all of us and it is now time to work together to develop and adopt legal acts for implementing the constitutional provisions … The reformed constitution paves the way for turning Armenia into a thriving country of the 21st century.”
Kocharian’s stated optimism was echoed by the three political parties represented in his government. “The referendum was a success because it is evident that the results of the November 27 vote on the whole reflect the popular mood,” they said in a joint statement.
The statement mentioned serious fraud reported by a team of referendum observers from the Council of Europe. But it claimed they concluded that those irregularities “could not have affected the outcome.”
However, a preliminary report issued by the European observers on Monday did not contain such assertion. “It’s not for us to evaluate whether or not the referendum was valid,” the head of their delegation, Tomas Jirsa, told a news conference.
The Council of Europe report called into question the authorities’ claims that nearly two thirds of Armenia’s 2.3 million eligible voters participated in the referendum. The reported turnout, one of the highest in Armenia’s post-Soviet history, was at odds with unusually deserted polling stations across the country. The Armenian opposition says it proves massive vote rigging allegedly perpetrated by the Kocharian administration.
The pro-Kocharian parties accused the opposition of trying to “come to power at any cost” and urged Armenians not to attend opposition rallies staged in Yerevan. “We urge you not to succumb to meaningless attempts to undermine the country’s stability and international standing,” they said.
(Photolur photo: Kocharian talking to reporters on Sunday.)