19/02/2003 - Results - 1st round
The first round of the Armenian presidential election on 19th February was chequered by a number of events since this was thought of as a test for democracy in the former Soviet Caucasus Republic that has been independent since 1991. During a press conference convened the day after the election Peter Eicher, leader of the observation delegation for the Organisation for the Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), reported "a number of problems", and confirmed that this election "was far from being in line with international democratic requirements". Around 6,000 observers of which 446 represented international organisations, such as the Council of Europe, monitored the election. Although fraud was confirmed it would seem that it was to a lesser degree than during the previous presidential election in 1998 but irregularities were observed nevertheless: threats against the representatives of some candidates and multiple cases of ballot box jamming. In addition to that once the first results declared the outgoing President, Robert Kotcharian, as the victor of the first round, five to six thousand supporters of Stepan Demirtchian gathered around the Central Electoral Commission's building to denounce the falsification of the results published by the Commission.
Officially nine people stood for the presidential election after the leader of the Communist Party (HKK) Vladimir Darbinian withdrew in favour of Artaches Guegamian, leader of the National Unity Party; and Aram Sargsian, leader of the Party for the Republic and former Prime Minister, stood down in favour of Stepan Demirtchian. The outgoing President Robert Kotcharian, who was forecast to be the victor of the first round by a majority of the opinion polls (the last poll credited him with 55.6% of the intention to vote), will have to face Stepan Demirtchian in the second round on 5th March. The latter relied throughout the campaign on the unblemished popularity of his father Karen Demirtchian, who was the first secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Armenia for a fourteen year period of (1974-1988) unprecedented prosperity. Karen Demirtchian who was the former president of the National Assembly was also a candidate during the presidential election on 16th and 30th March 1998 but was assassinated on 27th October 1999 by armed men who attacked the Armenian Parliament. "My father still has a place in people's hearts and my programme is founded upon his ideas", declared Stepan Demirtchian during the campaign, adding "my father always shared everything with me, he asked me for advice, we were very close". The leader of the Popular Armenian Party copied entire parts of his father's political programme saying that he is in favour of State control of the economy and the intensification of economic relations with Russia. For his part the outgoing President Robert Kotcharian has promised to maintain economic growth between 8 and 12% and to create 35 and 40,000 jobs per year. "When I was elected the first time round people were used to asking what they would receive when they retired", declared Robert Kotcharian during his campaign, "now they ask when will it be increased". The electoral campaign was however focussed mainly on the candidates' characters, since the differences in their programmes were so slight.
Although Armenia has the strongest growth rate out of all the Ex-Soviet States it is also the country where the differences in living standards are the greatest within the population. Today nearly half of the population is considered poor, 16% of Armenians live below the poverty line. The collapse of the Soviet Union greatly effected the country that was once one of the main military industrial centre in the USSR. In addition to this years of war Azerbaijan (1988-1994), the economic blockade that the country has always suffered on the part of Turkey and Azerbaijan and finally the earthquake in 1988 that killed 250,000 people and destroyed the economy in the north of the country and half of the national industry have all contributed in increasing Armenia's economic and social problems.
Before the general elections on 16th May the Armenians will also vote on 5th March to decide between Robert Kotcharian and Stepan Demirtchian thereby electing the new President for their Republic.
Results of the first round of the presidential election on 19th February:
Source: Central Election Commission of Armenia