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Armenia: OSCE Says Breaches Of Election Law Question Poll Integrity

Prague, 2 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Numerous irregularities during vote counting occurred in last month's Armenian presidential elections, says the Warsaw office of an agency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

OSCE's international election observer mission issued a "final post-election statement" today, saying "very serious breaches of the election law" occured during the counting, verification and tallying of results. The mission has not yet issued a final report judging whether the Armenian elections were valid.

The statement notes a "significant disparity" between the number of people who voted and the number of ballots counted. The mission says more than 21,000 ballots cast are missing and unaccounted for.

The statement says that incumbent President Levon Ter-Petrossian surpassed the 50 percent threshold needed for a first round win by less than 22,000 votes.

"The inaccuracies in the verification process can only contribute to a lack of confidence in the overall electoral process and could even question the results of the first round of balloting," said the OSCE statement.

The statement cites examples of irregularities in vote-counting, including ballot box stuffing and consultations between Interior Ministry officials, Ter-Petrossian's proxies and electoral precinct chairmen in the polling stations while the ballots were being counted.

Shortly after OSCE released the statement, Armenian opposition leader and presidential candidate Vazgen Manukian issued a demand for new presidential elections, or else a second round of voting.