Armenia’s Central Electoral Commission yesterday completed the ballot counting and declared Robert Kocharian the winner in the March 30 presidential runoff. Kocharian, who ran as prime minister and acting president, garnered 59 percent of the vote against 41 percent for his challenger, former Communist party leader Karen Demirchian. The turnout was 69 percent.
International monitoring groups from the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and other organizations pronounced the election generally free, fair, and orderly, despite some local cases in which international standards were not met. The observers expressed some criticism regarding bias by the state-owned electronic media in favor of Kocharian. However, their general verdict was positive, highlighting the progress marked by this election in comparison to the deeply flawed parliamentary elections of 1995 and presidential election of 1996. (Noyan-Tapan, Western agencies, April 1 and 2)
While Western monitors found the campaign atmosphere often tense, a Russian monitor found it, to the contrary, reassuringly calm: "We can’t boast this in Russia, [where] the situation is always tense: direct insults, blackmail, dirty methods. Give the Armenian comrades credit for good organization." (Noyan-Tapan, March 31)
Azerbaijani Reaction Shows Government-Opposition Gulf.