YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s Tuesday went to 1,923 polling stations located across the country to elect a new president, in what has been deemed the most highly anticipated presidential election in the young republics history. Thousands of local and international observers were stationed throughout the country to follow the elections as pressure from the international community for Armenia to hold a democratic election is at an all time high.
This is the fifth presidential election for the Armenian Republic, which gained its independence in 1991. There are nine candidates running in this year’s election: Country of Law leader Arthur Baghdasarian; Head of the National Unity party Artashes Geghamian; the leader of the People’s Party Tigran Karapetian; the leader of the National Democratic Union Vazgen Manukian; former Nagorno-Karabakh Presidential Advisor Arman Melikian, Republican Party Head, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian; former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian; Head of the National Consent party Aram Harutyunian; and ARF Bureau Member, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Vahan Hovannesian.
More than 600 international observers are in Armenia to monitor the vote. The OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has 40 long-term observers and 260 short-term ones brought in to observe the polling. The CIS observation mission and the CIS parliamentary assembly were also in Armenia monitoring the polls. 27 short-term PACE observers were also in Armenia, alongside monitors from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament. The largest local NGO monitoring the elections with 4,000 observers is Its Your Choice.
Two observers from the OSCE-ODIHR, Mod Grimod and Francias Maria Pickock said that the polling stations where they were stationed had a calm atmosphere throughout the day and voting was carried out within the limits of law. Grimod told Armenpress that no complaints have yet been registered.
But Presidential Candidate Vahan Hovannesian’s campaign manager Armen Rustamian, expressed anxiety about violations registered during the presidential elections Tuesday, reported Noyan Tapan. Rustamian noted, in particular, the violations that were committed in Yerevan’s N7, N8, and N17 electoral districts, as well as the electoral violations committed in the village of Garni.
Rustamian, who is also the ARF Armenia Supreme Council Chairman and Chairman of Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Relations, also said that certain incidents of violence are showing an escalation of tensions between Ter-Petrosyan and Sarkisian’s supporters
“I urged the appropriate governmental agencies to undertake the steps necessary to correct these violations and prevent their future outbreak,” he said.
After casting his vote Tuesday morning, Presidential Candidate Vahan Hovannesian told journalists that he expects a fair election.
“I hope that in few days our people will have the chance to say after all that Armenia held a fair election,” said Hovannesian, who has been conducting what many observers say to be the most democratic and innovative campaign during this election season. “Even those whose candidate might lose should still feel satisfied that this country was able to hold a free and just election.”
In case of massive election fraud, Hovannesian said, he and the ARF would file a case with the courts if allegations of fraud are corroborated with evidence. He also said that if protests by other candidates against the result of the election are substantiated, the ARF will also join in the protests.
He, however, stopped short of making any predictions, saying he will get as many votes as the voters decide.
Hovannesian was in Yerevan’s Davitashen and Downtown districts Saturday meeting with Students from the ARF Nigol Aghbalian Student Union as well as other Armenian voters living in Yerevan.
“Shame on those who made our people become so disappointed from the current situation that they are ready to elect the former regime,” Hovannesian said. “During the Armenian Pan-National Movement’s rule, the people were deprived from heat, power, etc. it is now possible to restore all that and it is being restored,” he added. But the injustice has remained.”
He said he knows about the problems of the people and if elected he will settle all the issues very quickly.
He also said that the ARF is opposed to the development of a large economic gap in Armenia, where only the rich get richer.
Discussing the current political climate, Hovannesian noted that the current regime is fighting against the former regime over power right now. Their fight is not ideological or political, he said, because both realize that if they campaign based on ideology, they would lose to the ARF.
This is why, according to Hovannesian, the other candidates, including Ter-Petrosian and Sarkisian, have been mudslinging and ignoring calls for public debate by the ARF.
They are fighting for money and power, he said. The old regime wants it again and the new one doesn’t want to let go.
“And only one power is coming to break that chain. We can break it because we are not a part of that chain,” Hovannesian said.
The CEC had also extended invitations to OSCE member countries’ ambassadors in Armenia to observe the election. Invitations were made to the head of the OSCE Yerevan Office, the special representative of the Council of Europe in Armenia, head of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems office in Armenia, and members of the CEC of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Information on voter turnout was updated on the CEC website every three hours during election day. The final results will be publicized within seven days, according to the CEC.
There are currently 2,328,320 eligible voters in the country, according to the updated CEC voter lists. The CEC said Tuesday night that according to the initial estimates, voter turnout was 69.25 percent with 1,641,672 voters having cast their ballots in the presidential election. The CEC said that in the capital city of Yerevan, 530,575 voters or 69.47 percent of eligible voters went to cast their ballots. While in Aragatsotn province the turnout was 67.74 percent (71,215 voters); in Armavir province the turnout was 72.08 percent (140,096 voters); in Ararat province 135,801 people went to the polls or 66.26 percent; In Gegharkunik the turnout was 74.81 percent (132,006 people); In Kotayk the voter turnout was 71.08 percent (152,451 people); In Lori the turnout was 66.17 percent or 149,935 voters; In Shirak the turnout was 63.70 percent (137,468 people); In Syunik it was 73.71 percent or 86,834 people; In Vayots Dzor the turnout was 71.62 percent (32,759) people and in Tavush it was 68.96 percent or 72,917 people.
According to the election code, the candidate, who receives more than 50 percent of all cast votes, will be elected president of the Republic of Armenia for a five-year term. If no one receives the minimum, a second round will be held in two weeks and the two candidates with the greatest number of votes will participate in the run-off.
An optimistic President Robert Kocharian, along with his wife, daughter and son voted Tuesday in a precinct at a secondary school in Yerevan.
“I am in a good mood and I am sure that everything will proceed well,” the outgoing president said. “I voted for Armenia’s stability and prosperity.”
“Every election is a test that we must go through and emerge stronger,” he said. “I am confident that this election will mark another step forward to a stronger and democratic Armenia.”
Kocharian declined to make a forecast about the election result, adding however that he would like the poll to end in one round.