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By Anna Saghabalian
A senior official representing the Council of Europe echoed on Monday Western observers’ largely positive assessment of Armenia’s presidential election and urged the authorities in Yerevan not to use force against opposition protesters.

“It is just enough to have a look at the report by the [observers] and you will see that that is a confirmation that this is another positive step towards the country’s democratic development,”
Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Jan Kubis, chairman of the Strasbourg-based organization, said after talks in Yerevan with his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian.

“I hope that the government will draw lessons from the recommendations and criticism of international observers and will take steps in the future to improve the electoral atmosphere in the country,” he told journalists.

In their preliminary report released last week, the mostly Western observers representing the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union said the February 19 vote was held “mostly in accordance” with democratic standards. They at the same time reported serious problems during the vote count and noted a “lack of public confidence in the electoral process.”

Even so, the observers’ verdict was a massive boost to the international legitimacy of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian’s victory in the vote challenged by his main opponent, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian. Tens of thousands of Ter-Petrosian supported have demonstrated in Yerevan for the past six days in what President Robert Kocharian has described as an attempt to “seize power by illegal means.”

Kubis said both the authorities and the Ter-Petrosian should avoid using force in their standoff. “Violence is something that must be avoided at all costs,” he said. “I hope very much there will be no escalation.”

(Photolur photo)
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