YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The United States Information Service issued the following statement on Thursday:
"The United States believes that a free and fair presidential election in Armenia on March 16–that surpasses the standard attained in Armenia’s 1995 parliamentary and 1996 presidential elections–will give critical impetus to Armenia’s efforts to strengthen democracy–realize a free market economy and build regional peace and stability.
The United States welcomes the efforts being mounted by the international community through the OSCE to form an international observer group to monitor the election.
In this regard–the US government notes the importance of providing a sound legal basis for the activities of domestic Armenian election observers–who were absent in the 1996 presidential election. It is of paramount importance that Armenia’s themselves have the right to monitor their own election–a standard practice in democratic elections throughout the world. It is also important that all candidates be given equal access to state controlled media.
The purpose and spirit of democratic elections requires that the voters of Armenia–whether they are civilian or military–cast their ballots in an atmosphere free from intimidation or pressure from those in positions of authority or influence. Undue police or military presence in or near polling stations is inappropriate in a democratic election and will inevitably cast doubt on the results.
The 1998 Armenian presidential election once again provides Armenia an opportunity to demonstrate vibrant democratic credentials to its own citizens and the world. As a friend and supporter of Armenia–the United States expresses the sincere hope that next month Armenia will experience an open–transparent–and fair presidential election."