[QODLink]
Europe
Armenian president's party 'to keep power'
Serzh Sarksyan's Republican Party is on course to win parliamentary election, an exit poll showed.
Last Modified: 06 May 2012 16:41
President Serzh Sarkisian promised a fair election, and portrayed the vote as a break from the past [AFP]

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan's Republican Party is on course to win Sunday's parliamentary election, an exit poll showed after voting ended in the South Caucasus country.

The exit poll by the Gallup International Association showed Prosperous Armenia, the Republican Party's partner in the previous coalition government, was set to finish second.

It put the Republican Party on 44.44 per cent, and Prosperous Armenia on 28.81 per cent.

Opinion polls had suggested that the Republican party was ahead of the Prosperous Armenia party, led by Gagik Tsarukian, a super-rich former arm wrestling champion.

"I want everything to be calm, peaceful and in accordance with our laws today, tomorrow and the day afterwards. This is a guarantee of progress," Sarkisian told journalists after casting his ballot in Yerevan, the capital.

Vote conduct scrutinised

Around 2.5 million people, out of a population of 3.3 million people, were eligible to vote in the elections, which was contested by eight parties and one bloc.

Some 350 European observers and 31,000 local monitors are scrutinising the conduct of the polls.

"I am for change but without drastic upheavals. We need stability," one voter at a polling station in the capital, electrician Garnik Khacheian, told the AFP news agency.

"I voted for fairness. It's impossible to live in a country where human rights are not observed, where there is no work and there are the very rich and those who have nothing," said unemployed voter Alvard, who declined to give her surname.

Sarkisian had been criticised for continuing Friday's campaign event after the incident which saw scores of promotional balloons burst into flames as people screamed in panic.

The elections are the biggest test of the ex-Soviet state's fragile democratic credentials since a disputed presidential vote in 2008 which ended in fatal clashes.

The Armenian National Congress opposition bloc led by Levon Ter-Petrosian, a former president, has alleged that the governing party was planning to rig the vote to keep power and has threatened protests.

"If the elections are normal, we will agree with any result," Ter-Petrosian said after voting.

Demonstrations have also not been ruled out by Prosperous Armenia, whose leader Tsarukian is seen by supporters as a benevolent hero for his donations to the poor.

Campaigning ended in chaos on Friday when scores of gas-filled balloons exploded at a Republican party rally in Yerevan led by Sarkisian, unleashing a fireball into the air and injuring almost 150 people.

The authorities promised an unprecedentedly clean contest for the 131-seat National Assembly in the hope of avoiding any turmoil after battles between riot police and opposition supporters four years ago left 10 people dead.

A pre-poll report by observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) did not register systematic violations, although media reports alleged that some parties have been bribing potential voters.

Campaigning in the Caucasus state of 3.3 million people mainly focused on issues of unemployment, poverty and emigration rather than Armenia's long-running political disputes with neighbours Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lacking cohesive local ground forces to attack in tandem, coalition air strikes will have limited effect, experts say.
Hindu right-wing groups run campaign against what they say is Muslim conspiracy to convert Hindu girls into Islam.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
Muslim caretakers maintain three synagogues in eastern Indian city, which was once home to a thriving Jewish community.
Amid fresh ISIL gains, officials in Anbar province have urged the Iraqi government to request foreign ground troops.