By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian assured international observers on Tuesday that Armenia’s leadership will do its best to ensure that the upcoming presidential election is free and fair.
“We are interested in holding elections meeting international standards and will try to do everything [for that purpose] in the organizational sense,” Kocharian told Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, head of the election observation mission deployed in the country by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The mission officially began its work on January 10, expressing hope that the February 19 vote will mark an improvement over last May’s parliamentary elections which OSCE observers described as largely democratic. Their assessment of the previous Armenian elections, including the two presidential elections controversially won by Kocharian, were far more negative.
The OSCE’s Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) plans to again deploy about 300 monitors on voting day. Their findings will be critical for the international legitimacy of Armenia’s next president.
A statement by Kocharian’s office quoted the outgoing president as urging the OSCE/ODIHR mission to “meticulously check” every report of electoral fraud before including it into its preliminary and final reports. “Robert Kocharian also provided explanations regarding issues raised by the head of the ODIHR observer mission,” the statement added without elaborating.
Kocharian indicated last week that he believes ultimate responsibility for ensuring the proper conduct of the upcoming ballot rests with Armenia’s leading political parties that appoint most members of various-level election commissions.