By Emil Danielyan and Harry Tamrazian in Prague
President Robert Kocharian on Friday urged visiting members of the European Parliament to be “objective” in evaluating his administration’s conduct of the Armenian parliamentary elections.
The nearly two dozen EU lawmakers will join about 400 representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe in monitoring Saturday’s voting and counting of ballots in polling stations across Armenia. The findings of the OSCE-led joint observer mission will be crucial for the international legitimacy of the vote. Its preliminary report is due to be released on Sunday.
Kocharian’s meeting with the delegation of the European Parliament focused on the final preparations for the elections. He was quoted by his office as saying that all Armenian parties running for parliament were able to present their views and platforms to votes during the election campaign that officially ended on Thursday night.
“Once again emphasizing the government’s determination to hold elections in accordance with international standards, Robert Kocharian at the same time expected objective evaluations from the observer missions,” the presidential press service said in a statement.
The Kocharian administration had taken issue with the OSCE’s highly critical assessment of the last Armenian presidential and parliamentary elections held in 2003. The findings of the mainly Western observers acting under the OSCE aegis gave weight to opposition allegations of massive vote rigging.
Kocharian exposed his government’s discontent with their activities during a meeting with university students in Yerevan late last month. He said his government has sought assurances that the OSCE-led mission will not be a “tool” in the hands of unspecified external powers. The Armenian Foreign Ministry criticized last week the mission’s most recent interim report which cited opposition allegations of vote buying and collection of voters’ passport data by pro-government parties.
The Armenian elections also featured large during Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s meetings with senior Council of Europe officials in Strasbourg on Thursday and Friday. “Everyone expects us to hold free and fair elections,” he told RFE/RL by phone. “Elections that would be much better than the previous ones in all respects.”
Oskanian said he was warned of negative consequences of a repeat of serious irregularities which he said would be a “big blow to Armenia’s reputation” “I don’t know what exactly could happen, but I think that consequences will be not only moral,” he warned.
“I call on all of our political forces to keep in mind that a lot depends on the proper conduct of these elections,” said Oskanian.
In televised remarks broadcast late Thursday, Kocharian indicated that responsibility for the proper conduct of the vote primarily rests with Armenia’s leading parties that appoint six of the nine members of various-level election commissions. He argued that only one member of each commission is named by the president of the republic.