By Ruben Meloyan
The chairman-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met Armenia’s top government and opposition leaders on Tuesday to discuss mounting tensions in the country in the wake of last week’s presidential election.
Outgoing President Robert Kocharian’s office said Finland’s Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva praised the Armenian authorities for showing “restraint” in dealing with opposition protesters challenging the official election results. “He expressed confidence that Armenia’s authorities will continue to display prudence and will act with methods accepted in civilized countries,” it said in a statement.
A separate statement by the Armenian government said Kanerva “warmly congratulated” Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian on his victory in the February 19 election which was formally declared by the Central Election Commission on Sunday. Sarkisian was quoted as praising the work of some 400 representatives of the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union who monitored the vote.
The observers concluded in their preliminary report that the vote was administered “mostly in accordance” with democratic standards.
Kanerva endorsed this assessment at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. But he noted that the observers also reported voting irregularities and serious problems during the counting of ballots.
“The report contains positive and critical elements,” Kanerva said. “One needs to keep in mind both of those dimensions in that preliminary report. Legal complaints against the electoral process must be fully investigated. That’s more than natural.”
Kanerva added that the observers’ final report, due to be issued by mid-April, therefore “will not be quite clean.” “But even if it’s not clean, it doesn’t mean that everything has failed,” he said. “So this is a positive steps towards functioning democracy. It will take time, it will take some elections.”
Later in the day, Kanerva met with former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, Sarkisian’s main challenger who has rejected the official results as fraudulent. The Finnish official called the meeting “very informative” but did not give details.