By Tigran Avetisian
A senior official from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Monday dismissed Armenian opposition claims that the democracy and security watchdog contributed to the deadly unrest in Yerevan with its largely positive assessment of Armenia’s 2008 presidential election.
In their first report on the February 19 vote, a team of international observers mostly representing the OSCE concluded that it was conducted “mostly in accordance” with democratic standards. . The conclusion gave a major boost to the international legitimacy of Serzh Sarkisian’s controversial election win, even if the OSCE mission somewhat backtracked on it in its final report issued in May.
Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, the main opposition presidential candidate, and his top aides have repeatedly charged that the observers’ initial findings effectively gave the Armenian authorities the green light to use lethal force against opposition protesters demanding a re-run of the vote. An opposition task force investigating the March 1 clashes in Yerevan arrived at the same conclusion in a report issued earlier this month.
Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, the OSCE’s secretary general, rejected the opposition criticism as he spoke at a news conference held in Yerevan after his talks with Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian. “Sometimes people get confused because they do not see that this [OSCE-led election observation] is not about saying whether an election is good or bad, whether it was free and fair or not,” he said. “This is about saying that an election has been a further stepping stone in a process of improving the implementation of the [OSCE] standards. And this happens, I can tell you, in all the elections which the OSCE is invited to monitor.”
“The reports which we produce are not tools to give good or bad marks, they are tools to work together in ensuring a continuous process of democratic consolidation and successful democratic transition,” added Brichambaut.
It was not clear if Brichambaut discussed the post-election developments in Armenia and, in particular, the continuing imprisonment of some 70 Ter-Petrosian supporters with Nalbandian and other Armenian officials. The OSCE official and Nalbandian said only that they discussed the full scope of Armenia’s relations with the 56-nation organization.
The Yerevan government has been under pressure from the United States and human rights bodies such as the Council of Europe to free most of the oppositionists arrested in the wake of the troubled election. Their release is a key demand of two resolutions on Armenia adopted by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) earlier this year.
Nalbandian insisted on Monday Yerevan has mostly complied with those resolutions. “You can’t solve some issues in one, two or three days,” he said. “I don’t think any country could have done so much work with so much collaboration with international experts. We have managed to do that.”