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Armenian President Pledges Truly Democratic Elections In 2012

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian
YEREVAN -- President Serzh Sarkisian has assured Armenians that he does not regard the forthcoming parliamentary elections primarily as a means of clinging to power, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

"As you know, [2012] is also a year of elections to the National Assembly," Sarkisian said in his New Year's address on Armenian television.

"In many instances elections, have been perceived -- I repeat, perceived -- only as a means of grabbing or retaining power. It is high time to realize that there are far more eminent goals."

He added that he made a "personal decision long ago to do my best to get rid of those flawed stereotypes, to implant in political life the principles of truly national and truly state approaches. I make no secret that to do that I needed, and still need, help."

Sarkisian and other senior officials pledged repeatedly last year to prevent serious fraud in the May 2012 elections.

They said a set of amendments to the Electoral Code approved by parliament in May will serve that purpose.

Leading opposition forces have cast doubt on the sincerity of these pledges.

Further Amendments Ruled Out

They have challenged the authorities to prove their commitment to free and fair elections by enacting more radical changes to the electoral law, including the holding of parliamentary elections on a party-list basis and the mandatory inking of voters' fingers to prevent multiple or carousel voting.

But Sarkisian's Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) ruled out further amendments to the election law late last month.

HHK representatives alleged that there were ulterior motives behind the opposition's demands.

In late November, Sarkisian himself scoffed at a long list of antifraud measures proposed to him by opposition Heritage party leader Raffi Hovannisian.

He said Hovannisian is only seeking to undermine the "ongoing process" of Armenia's democratization.

Sarkisian said Armenian officials will therefore ignore the opposition's "venom" and "vicious goal."

Sarkisian has long been branded by his most radical political opponents as one of the chief architects of the country's culture of electoral fraud.

He managed his predecessor Robert Kocharian's reelection campaign in 2003, and succeeded Kocharian in April 2008 after a disputed presidential election that sparked deadly street violence.

Sarkisian said on November 26 that "our to have elections which fully correspond to international standards."

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