- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Armenia’s governing Republican Party has emerged as the winner in parliamentary elections, paving the way for Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan’s return to office.

However, leaders of the opposition bloc decried the results released yesterday as “shameful.” International observers said the process was an improvement over the presidential election in February, but failed to meet international standards in several key areas.

The Central Election Commission said only six of the 21 political parties contesting the elections on Sunday received the 5 percent of total votes needed to enter the Armenian parliament.

The Republican Party received 24.55 percent of the votes, according to results published by the Panarmenian News Agency. The Justice bloc of opposition parties received 14.25 percent, followed by four smaller parties.

Mr. Margaryan is expected to begin negotiations with some of those smaller parties to form a coalition making up at least 50 percent of the seats in parliament.

The elections were monitored by more than 400 observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and nine other international organizations, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in response to widespread charges of irregularities in the February election.

A shooting incident that killed one person in the Shaumyan district cast a shadow over the entire election process, said Giovanni Kessler, the head of the observer mission.

Stepan Demirchian, the Justice leader, said the bloc would not recognize the results of what he called the second-most-shameful elections in Armenia.

The international observer mission stressed that its final conclusions would depend on the transparency of the tabulation and announcement of results, and the complaints-resolution process.

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