Candidate Claims Fraud in Armenia Presidential Poll

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Mass violations have occurred during voting in Armenia’s presidential election, a spokesman for one of the candidates claimed on Monday, the Novosti-Armenia news agency reported.

“Starting from 8:00 a.m., we have been receiving reports from polling stations across Armenia of violations, in particular, of ballot stuffing, control of the voting process,” election candidate Raffi Hovhannisyan’s press secretary Hovsep Khurshudyan told reporters.

Polling started at 8:00 a.m. and ended at 8:00 p.m. local time on Monday. Seven candidates ran for the presidency, which according to opinion polls is likely to be won by incumbent leader Serzh Sargsyan.

According to an exit poll conducted by Baltic Surveys/The Gallup Organization at 120 out of 1,988 polling stations and announced by the Armnews TV channel, incumbent President Sargsyan is leading with 58 percent of the vote, which means he could win in the first round. His closest rival, Hovhanissyan, has 32 percent, according to the poll, while other candidates have under 5 percent each.

“There are also reports of disappearing stamps in citizens’ passports,” Khurshudyan added, while showing journalists that the stamp indicating a person has voted can easily be removed with a wet napkin.

Khurshudyan said Hovhannisyan’s campaign headquarters has reported all the violations it registered to the relevant law enforcement agencies, whose officials assured him the information would be dealt with according to the law.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, who has already voted, claimed the election has been going smoothly and all measures have been taken to “rule out any doubts that the vote is free and transparent.”

Armenia’s Central Election Commission said voter turnout was slightly over 60 percent, or 1,518,000 people, as of the moment polling stations closed.

Armenian presidential candidate Paruir Hairikyan was shot in the shoulder last month, in an apparent assassination bid. He initially asked for a deferral of the vote, but later withdrew his appeal to the country’s Constitutional Court to postpone the election by two weeks.

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