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Armenia: Opposition Candidate Says Runoff Isn't Free Or Fair

Yerevan, 5 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Armenian opposition presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian said today's runoff election for president is neither free nor fair. Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency quoted Demirchian as saying it is clear that there have been massive abuses in the election process. Demirchian spoke after casting his own ballot in the capital Yerevan.

Demirchian's campaign chief, Grigor Haroutunian, showed reporters a stack of ballots that he claimed were marked in advance in favor of incumbent President Robert Kocharian.

In the first round of voting two weeks ago, Kocharian won slightly less than the 50 percent of the vote needed for outright victory. Demirchian won about 30 percent of the vote.

International monitors said the earlier election was flawed. Opposition activists launched antigovernment rallies after the first round to protest alleged abuses.