Armenian President Wins Re-Election; Rivals Allege Election Fraud

 @AmruthaGayathri
on February 19 2013 5:35 AM
 Serge Sarkisian
Armenia's President Serge Sarkisian and his wife Rita leave a polling station after voting during the presidential election in Yerevan on Feb. 18, 2013 REUTERS

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian won a re-election Tuesday avoiding a runoff in a national poll that international observers said was not “genuinely competitive.”

Sarkisian received nearly 59 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff, Tigran Mukuchian, chairman of the country's Central Election Commission, said Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

His closest rival, U.S.-born Raffi Hovannisian, who served previously as foreign minister, took nearly 37 percent.

After polls closed Monday, police said they received 70 reports of voting violations, including bribery at polling stations, and that they had opened two criminal investigations, Reuters reported.

Just over 60 percent of Armenia's 2.5 million eligible voters cast votes in Monday's election, the AP reported citing the election commission.

Though votes from all polling stations have been counted, the winner is not expected to be declared until next Monday.

Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe's main election monitoring body, said Monday's election was peaceful.

"However, the limited field of candidates meant that the election was not genuinely competitive," they said in a written statement, as reported by Reuters. "The candidates who did run were able to campaign in a free atmosphere and to present their views to voters, but the campaign overall failed to engage the public's interest."

Several of Sarkisian's key rivals pulled out of the contest fearing that the process would be skewed in the president's favor.

One of the candidates — Paruyr Hayrikyan, head of the National Self-Determination Union — was shot Jan. 31 outside his home near Armenian capital Yerevan in a suspected assassination attempt.

Another candidate, Andrias Ghukasyan, has been on hunger strike since the start of the election campaign calling on the authorities to invalidate the president's candidacy and urging international observers to boycott the election.

Another contender Arman Melikyan had earlier said he would neither recognize the election results nor vote Monday because he believed the poll would be rigged in favor of the president.

In the 2008 presidential election, then Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian was declared winner in the first round with 52.9 percent of the vote. But thousands of opposition supporters staged protests against the poll, which they said was rigged. OSCE said the vote met international standards for most part.

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