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Last Updated: Monday, 26 May, 2003, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Observers condemn Armenian poll
President Robert Kocharyan (file photo)
President Kocharyan does not belong to any political grouping
International observers monitoring a parliamentary election in Armenia say Sunday's parliamentary poll in Armenia fell short of international standards in several areas.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe said there were a number of irregularities including the falsification of results and intimidation of observers.

"If this goes on under the eyes of our observers, one can only imagine [what goes on] in places where our observers are not present," OSCE ambassador Robert Barry was quoted as saying.

Earlier the OSCE called for an investigation into the shooting in the town of Shaumian in the south of Armenia on Sunday night in which one man was shot dead.

The head of a local election commission and an opposition activist were also wounded in the attack.

Unofficial results indicate that three parties supporting President Robert Kocharyan have so far gained more than 53% of the vote.

But the opposition Justice Party says that parties loyal to the president, in collusion with the authorities, have bribed voters, beaten up opposition activists and stuffed ballot boxes.

"They have done everything they can to create a puppet parliament and it has all been done with Kocharyan's consent," said opposition spokesman Vartan Grigorian.

The poll comes two months after a presidential vote that sparked large protests over alleged irregularities and was criticised by international observers.

Economic reforms

Election officials said just over half the electorate turned out to vote in the latest elections.

Pro-government parties are set to dominate the new parliament, both in seats allocated by proportional representation and in local constituencies.

The Justice Party emerged as the leading opposition group, gaining just over 10% of the national vote.

Justice is headed by Stepan Demirchian, who lost the presidential vote in March.

President Kocharyan does not belong to a political grouping and counts on support from an array of parties and independents.

His supporters point to Armenia's economic reforms, aimed at pulling the country out of the poverty that set in with the post-Soviet economic collapse.

Opponents complain that Armenia has not reached a settlement with Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, an ethnic Armenian enclave over which there has been a long-running dispute.

They also contend that Mr Kocharyan's presidency is illegal in the wake of the alleged vote-rigging in the presidential contest.

Incumbent 'wins' Armenia vote
06 Mar 03  |  Europe
Armenians say US failed them
26 Jan 03  |  Correspondent
Country profile: Armenia
12 Feb 03  |  Country profiles

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