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U.S. Offers $6 Million Election-Related Assistance to Armenia

By Anna Saghabalian

U.S. Ambassador John Evans has reiterated today the importance his government attaches to the next parliamentary and presidential elections in Armenia.

“In our view the elections in 2007 and 2008 provide a golden opportunity for Armenia to reaffirm its chosen path towards democracy and to overcome some of the problems the country had in the past,” Evans said at a joint press conference with USAID Program Head Robin Philips on Thursday, adding that the United States has always supported democratic reforms in Armenia, but “a free, fair and transparent conduct of the 2007 and 2008 elections has a particular importance for the country’s future”.

According to the ambassador, it is important that the elections are considered free and fair by the international community, but most importantly that they be considered free and fair by voters in Armenia itself.

For this purpose the U.S. Government has drafted a program to assist Armenia in holding free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007 and 2008.

According to Evans, the U.S. Congress has already approved this program and around $6 million will be allocated for different educational, technical and other assistance projects to be implemented in Armenia. He also said that the program was discussed with Armenia’s authorities, who positively responded to it.

The U.S. election-related assistance includes various trainings and educational programs for voters, proxies, media, incentives and grants for NGOs, publication of electoral laws and other documents.

Among the objectives of this assistance is also to address the problem of voter list accuracy in Armenia. But according to the ambassador, this process will start only at the beginning of 2006.

Asked about his attitude towards revolutions, a subject widely speculated on in Armenia before next month’s referendum on constitutional amendments, the U.S. Ambassador said: “I can make it very clear – the United States is not for street revolutions. A revolution is a result of failure. We are for an evolutionary development and we think that leaders must be elected through ballot-boxes and not in the street.”

Asked about how effective this assistance will prove in grappling with corrupt practices typical of Armenian elections, Evans said: “There have been some lessons learned over the last few years precisely in this part of the world. I think it should be clear to all that the time of vote riggings is over. I am more optimistic today. I believe that with the presence of political will and with the assistance of the experts we will invite we can achieve real changes.”

Responding to recent accusations alleging that he permitted himself to campaign for constitutional amendments in Armenia, Evans stressed that he simply wanted to state the opinion of the U.S. on the constitutional reforms in Armenia: “I said I believed it’s a positive step. In the very next breath I have always said that the decision is up to Armenian voters.”

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