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Armenia Elections - 2003

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully; however, there were serious flaws in the conduct of the year's presidential and parliamentary elections. As a result, neither election met international standards.

The presidential election was held in two rounds (February 28 and March 5), as none of the nine candidates won an outright majority in the first round of voting. According to the official tally, President Kocharian secured 49.5 percent of the vote in the first round and 67.5 percent in the runoff against Stepan Demirchian.

In both the presidential and parliamentary elections, OSCE observers witnessed substantial irregularities, including intimidation of territorial and local election commissioners supporting opposition candidates, serious procedural shortcomings in the failure to insure the integrity of the ballot papers and the vote counting, ballot box stuffing, and other fraudulent voting practices, as well as partisan election commissions. The OSCE noted in its final reports that the elections fell short of international standards and that confirmed instances of election day irregularities in the second round rose 13 percent from the first round. Authorities' harassment of opposition supporters, including arrests and punitive job dismissals, greatly increased before the second round of the presidential election. The OSCE estimated that Yerevan police detained more than 200 opposition supporters between the two rounds of the presidential elections for participating in unsanctioned campaign rallies. The OSCE also noted the lack of accountability for election fraud.

Opposition candidates filed several formal legal complaints in the Constitutional Court challenging the results of the presidential election. The Court identified a number of irregularities and criticized the Government's handling of the electoral process; however, they found there was no constitutional basis to change the results of the elections.

The OSCE reported that the May 25 parliamentary elections "marked an improvement" over the presidential election, although it again recorded serious flaws. While acknowledging that the Government made clear efforts to prevent continued violations of election law, the OSCE criticized the political leadership for its failure to hold perpetrators accountable for fraudulent practices. As in the presidential election, observers recorded instances of ballot box stuffing and inaccurate voter lists. Authorities proved generally willing to provide redress to losing candidates who had viable claims of fraud in their individual races. The Central Election Commission overturned the results of three parliamentary races held in majoritarian districts, ordering another round of voting that was held on June 14-15. The Constitutional Court ordered re-run elections in another two districts due to conclusive evidence of fraud. A constitutional referendum on executive and other powers to address membership requirements in the COE received a majority of votes cast but not the supermajority required.

Of the 131 seats in the National Assembly (75 elected on a proportional basis and 56 on a district-by-district majoritarian basis), 96 went to pro-government parties or deputies (the governing coalition consisting of the Republican Party, Orinats Yerkir, and the Dashnaksutyun plus several unaffiliated deputies who voted with the government bloc), with opposition candidates and parties securing 26 seats. The nominal majority in Parliament was made up of a coalition headed by the Republican Party of Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan, with Orinats Yerkir and the Dashnaksutyun serving as lesser partners. The three parties also formed the coalition cabinet. The Speaker of the National Assembly, Artur Baghdasarian, is chairman of the Orinats Yerkir Party. The opposition comprises both the Justice Bloc organized by Stepan Demirchian and the rival National Accord Party organized by Artashes Geghamian.

The only female cabinet minister is the Minister of Culture; there were several female deputy ministers. There were 6 women in the 131-seat Parliament. The population of the country is at least 95 percent ethnic Armenian; there were no ethnic minority representatives in the Cabinet or in the Parliament, although they are not prohibited from running and have run for office.

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Page last modified: 02-04-2017 14:40:19 ZULU