19/02/2003 - Results - 2nd round
The Armenian President Robert Kotcharian, who was the election's major favourite was re-elected as head of the country during the second round of the presidential election. The Armenians confirmed the first round vote - when Robert Kotcharian nearly clinched victory by winning 48.23% of the votes cast -, and thereby offering a landslide victory to the outgoing President who won 67.5% of the vote against the 32.5% won by his adversary Stepan Demirtchian (Armenia Popular Party). The latter won 27.37% of the vote during the first round of the election. The participation rate in the second round was slightly higher than in the first round (64.5% versus 61.9%).
Although the outgoing President's victory is quite a comfortable one that cannot really be questioned, however there remains major irregularities as in the first round (ballot box cramming and other fraudulent activities) were noticed during the second round by the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that had mobilised two hundred observers for this presidential election. Just before the election Walter Schwimmer, the Council of Europe's General Secretary warned of "an electoral collapse" that would surely provoke the occurrence of more incidents. The head of the OSCE's mission, Peter Eicher said he was "disappointed" with the way the second round of the election had been run. "The Presidential election did not meet international standards set for democratic election," he declared when the results were announced.
The day after the presidential election several thousand Armenian opposition supporters demonstrated in the streets of the capital Erevan to protest against the election's validity that they consider to be marred by electoral fraud. Stepan Demirtchian supporters had already challenged the first round results for the same reason. The Armenian Popular Party's candidate had already declared that he did not accept the first round results the day before the second round. "We intend to continue our fight", he confirmed on 6th March, "and we shall ask the Constitutional Court to invalidate the results". For the time being the demonstrations have all been peaceful.
The man from Nagorny Karabakh is therefore starting his second mandate as head of Armenia. Robert Kotcharian, who was born in Stepanaker, the "capital" of Nagorny Karabakh, was a member of the Soviet Communist Party before being elected to the presidency of the Defence Committee of Nagorny Karabakh in 1992. He then became the leader in the fight for the region's independence that led to war between Azerbaijan and Armenia who were supported by Erevan. This war caused the death of over 30,000 people and hundreds of thousands of refugees until the cease fire that was signed in May 1994. In 1997, Robert Kotcharian was called to Erevan by President Levon Ter Petrossian to head the Armenian government; the latter was in favour of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict but was subject to nationalist pressure. In February 1998, Parliament forced the President to resign and on 30th March of the same year, Robert Kotcharian took the supreme office. His first mandate brought Armenia relative stability and a return of economic growth even though the population's standard of life remained very low and emigration stayed high (around 800,000 Armenians have left the country in the last decade). And finally the Nagorny Karabakh problem has still not been settled.
Robert Kotcharian who was re-elected by a wide margin but not according to the democratic standards, will have to face the political tension that was came to light during this presidential election. Above all he will have the difficult task of continuing the country's economic recovery and succeeding in enabling the Armenians really to take advantage of the results of growth.
Results of the second rounds of the presidential election on 5th March:
Source Associated Press
Participation : 64.5%