At least 144 have taken to the hospital with burns after clusters of balloons exploded in Armenia.

Friday's explosion took place in the central square of the Armenian capital, Yerevan, during an election rally by
the ruling party two days before a parliamentary election.

"All the victims had either medium or light injuries. Now doctors are trying to revive them from shock," Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian told reporters.

The emergencies ministry said the explosion was caused by a smoker who had lit a cigarette near the balloons.

The balloons, decorated with the slogan "Let's believe in change", were supposed to be flown at a Republican Party rally that drew tens of thousands in the former Soviet republic.

Despite the accident, Serge Sarkisian, Armenian president, addressed the rally with a speech.

The Republican Party dominates the parliament of this impoverished Caucasus nation that borders Turkey.

Sunday's election is widely seen as a test of democracy and a potential challenge for Sarksian, elected in

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies