Armenians Approve Constitution

ARMENIANS have approved a new constitution that provides for a strong presidency with a comparatively weak parliament, results from a national referendum showed this weekend.

Central Electoral Commission chairman Robert Amiryan told reporters that 38 percent of eligible voters had backed the Constitution. The document needed the approval of one-third of eligible voters and a simple majority of those who cast their ballots. The new basic law gives the president the right to dissolve parliament, call early elections, and appoint a prime minister.

Opposition politicians say the July 5 referendum and simultaneous parliamentary elections should be declared void because of what they say were unfair election rules and multiple violations during the ballot. Final results from the parliamentary elections are not expected for several days, but President Levon Ter-Petrosyan's party says it has won the elections.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say the elections were generally free but definitely not fair, even taking into account Armenia's lack of democratic experience.

They cited a seven-month ban on the prominent opposition party, allegations of intimidation of opposition candidates, and biased preelection information.

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