The United States urged Armenia’s leading political forces to show “restraint” in the wake of a disputed presidential election and again endorsed the findings of the main international vote-monitoring mission late on Wednesday.
“The United States congratulates the people of Armenia on their February 18 presidential elections, which were judged by international observers to be generally well-administered and characterized by a respect for fundamental freedoms, including those of assembly and expression,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a written statement.
Nuland said Washington is at the same time concerned over violations reported by the Western observers mostly representing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “We agree with the findings that while Election Day was calm and orderly, it was marked by undue interference in the process, mainly by proxies representing the incumbent, and some serious violations, including cases of pressure on voters,” she said.
“We urge law enforcement officials to investigate and to take appropriate action in response to credible reporting of election violations, and we call on all parties to remain calm in this post-election period and to exercise restraint in their actions,” added Nuland.
Despite the guarded praise, it remains to be seen whether U.S. President Barack Obama will congratulate President Serzh Sarkisian on his controversial reelection. Sarkisian received no congratulatory message from Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, when he became president in an even more disputed ballot held five years ago.
Sarkisian has so far been congratulated by only one major Western leader, French President Francois Hollande. Sarkisian’s office said on Thursday that he has also received similar letters from the heads of two other European Union member states, Lithuania and Slovakia.
Earlier on Wednesday, EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and enlargement commissioner, Stefan Fuele, welcomed “further progress” in the Armenian authorities’ handling of elections. In a joint statement, they too endorsed the findings of the OSCE-led mission.
Citing that statement, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt gave a more negative assessment of the Armenian election. “I think it’s fair to say that the quality of the presidential elections in Armenia was well below expectations,” Bildt wrote on Twitter.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry was quick to dismiss this criticism, insisting that international monitors “welcomed the progress achieved during the presidential elections.” “Carl Bildt seems to be lacking good advisors on Armenia, and therefore the quality of information he possesses is disappointing,” read a ministry comment posted on Facebook.