Sarkisian re-elected in Armenia

FAIR?:Observers said the polls were an improvement from past elections, but lacked genuine competition. Sarkisian’s main rival alleged ‘huge’ voting violations


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 - Page 7

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian yesterday celebrated a crushing victory in elections for a second five-year mandate, but his rival alleged violations and observers complained the polls lacked competition.

Sarkisian, a shrewd former military officer in power since 2008, won Monday’s polls in the small former Soviet state nestled in the Caucasus mountains between Turkey and Iran with 58.64 percent of the votes.

His nearest rival, former foreign minister Raffi Hovannisian trailed in a distant second place with 36.75 percent of votes, the central election commission said after counting results from all the precincts.

“These elections have again shown that the Armenian people can unite and take the right decision at the most important moments,” Sarkisian told supporters at his campaign headquarters.

“I am proud and hope that all who did not vote for me understand the choice of the majority and we develop the country under a stable situation,” he said.

Hovannisian’s camp alleged a range of sometimes bizarre electoral violations, including the use of “disappearing ink” to allow multiple voting.

“These were shameful elections with a huge number of violations,” Hovannisian’s spokesman Hovsep Khurshudian said.

Hovannisian himself said that Sarkisian should acknowledge the elections were a victory not for him, but for the Armenian people.

“The people were victorious by making clear their will in the elections,” he told reporters during the count.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) said the elections were an improvement on past polls, but lacked genuine competition.

“This election showed improvement, but lacked genuine competition,” OSCE PA mission head Tonino Picula said. “Competition is critical if Armenia is going to live up to the aspirations of its people for a vibrant and engaging democracy.”

The observers said the voting process was well organized, but confirmed the inking of passports “did not provide the intended safeguard against multiple voting as the ink could easily be wiped off.”

The authorities had above all been hoping for a peaceful and internationally praised process that would improve the country’s chances of European integration. The vote that brought Sarkisian to power in 2008 ended in clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate in which 10 people died.

Former Armenian prime minister Hrant Bagratian was in third with just more than 2 percent of the vote, with the Soviet-era dissident Paruyr Hayrikyan in fourth. Voter turnout was 60 percent.