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Armenia: OSCE, Council Of Europe Observers Say Elections Flawed

Yerevan, 26 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- European election observers in Yerevan say yesterday's parliamentary elections in Armenia were marred by both violence and vote rigging. Robert Barry, the ambassador to Armenia for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said observer missions from the Council of Europe and the OSCE found yesterday's ballot was less flawed than the election for the Armenian presidency last March. But Barry said the vote still "fell short of international standards."

With about a quarter of yesterday's ballots counted, figures released by the Armenian Central Election Commission suggest parties loyal to President Robert Kocharian are on course to win a majority of seats in the legislature.

But the election was tarnished by a shooting at a polling station in a village south of Yerevan, which left one voter dead and injured a local election official and a local administrator.

Justice bloc leader Stepan Zakarian told RFE/RL after the vote that election monitors from his opposition bloc reported many cases of alleged ballot-box manipulation yesterday.

"The cases of voting irregularities that we know about, in fact, involved stuffing the ballot boxes. Numberous cases of ballot-box stuffing were registered by our observers after 17:00 [local time] yesterday," Zakarian said.

The pro-government Republican Party says the complaints of vote rigging are unsubstantiated.