Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan was re-elected to a second five-year term, beating his chief rival by more than 20 percentage points after a campaign that’s been overshadowed by one candidate’s attempted assassination.
Sargsyan won with 59 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Raffi Hovhannisyan, his closest rival, with all ballots counted, Hermine Harutyunyan, a spokeswoman for the Central Electoral Commission in the capital, Yerevan, said by phone. While observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe noted an improvement in the vote’s conduct, Hovhannisyan said the results don’t “reflect the will of the people.”
Sargsyan’s victory solidifies his standing after his Republican Party won a parliamentary ballot last year in the landlocked country that borders Iran and Turkey and fought a war with neighbor Azerbaijan over a disputed region two decades ago. While the president failed to alleviate poverty that afflicts a third of Armenia’s three million people, the $10 billion economy is forecast to grow more than 4 percent in 2013.
“The authorities wouldn’t allow the opposition to have success,” Manvel Sargsyan, director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies, said by phone. “That’s the reality this time again. We need to see what the opposition and society will do.”
Armenia’s dram was little changed at 406.67 per dollar late in Yerevan. The currency has lost 4.4 percent against the dollar over the past year compared with no change for the lari in neighboring Georgia and an advance of 0.2 percent for the Azeri manat, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Local election observers and non-government organizations registered more than 400 violations as of 5 p.m. yesterday in Yerevan. The infringements included ballot stuffing and attempts to vote more than once, they said.
“The Feb. 18 Armenian presidential election demonstrated improvements over previous presidential elections but the limited field of candidates meant the elections weren’t genuinely competitive,” Tonino Picula, head of the OSCE observer mission, told reporters today.
Addressing about 2,000 people in Liberty Square in Yerevan today, Hovhannisyan accused the Central Electoral Commission of making a “false calculation.” Ten activists laid flowers in front of the commission’s building, describing it as a “corpse.”
Paruyr Hayrikyan, a former dissident who was shot and wounded in a Jan. 31 incident, had 1.2 percent backing, trailing former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan’s 2.2 percent tally, the Central Electoral Commission said. Andrias Ghukasyan, who hasn’t eaten in about a month and questioned the legitimacy of the ballot, calling it “fake,” got 0.6 percent.
Final election results are scheduled for later this week.
Gross domestic product will jump 6.2 percent this year after rising 7.2 percent in 2011, the government predicts. That’s more optimistic than the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank, which estimate growth of 5 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.
The South Caucasus country, whose exports include zinc, copper and semi-precious stones, relies on its far-flung diaspora to support the economy, with remittances accounting for about 20 percent of its economic output, according to Commerzbank AG.
Sargsyan grew up in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region that broke free of Azerbaijan’s control after the 1991 Soviet collapse and is a frequent source of tension between the two nations. His 2008 election win triggered bloody scenes as 10 people died amid clashes between opposition protesters and police.
The Armenian leader, whose party won 68 of Parliament’s 131 seats at elections last May, has had to overcome a 14 percent plunge in gross domestic product in 2009 after Lehman Brothers Holding Inc.’s collapse triggered a global recession. The proportion of people living below the poverty line has grown to 35 percent from 23.5 percent in 2008, while unemployment was 5.9 percent at the end of 2012, official data show.
Two suspects have been arrested after Hayrkyan was wounded in a shooting near his home late on Jan. 31. After having bullet fragments removed from his shoulder, he declined to seek a delay in the presidential vote.
Ghukasyan, a lawyer and radio station head, has refused to call off his hunger strike unless he’s visited by Health Minister Derenik Dumanyan. In a show of solidarity, nine people began a sit-in protest behind the National Academy of Science yesterday.
Another three hopefuls decided against standing at all. The absence of challengers among the opposition will probably stem the possibility of violence after the elections, according to Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan.
“Experience shows that Armenians prefer leaving the country instead of voicing their protest,” said Tatul Hakobyan, a political analyst at Civilitas Foundation in Yerevan. “People have grown indifferent about elections after seeing over the past 20 years elections that were neither free nor fair.”
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