Armenian president wins second term by wide margin

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Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan won a second five-year term, the Central Electoral Commission said on Tuesday (19 February). 

Police said after polls closed on Monday that they had received 70 reports of voting violations, including bribery at polling stations, and that they had opened two criminal investigations.

The president, 58, has vowed to improve the economy in his landlocked South Caucasus country and said before the vote he would ensure stability and security after years of war and upheaval, though he outlined no big policy changes.

Sarksyan, like many of his generation, is a veteran of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, and has accused neighbouring Azerbaijan of threatening a new conflict. Baku denies it is the aggressor and says Armenia should hand back control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The continued peace of a region where pipelines take Caspian oil and natural gas to Europe is a concern for foreign investors and neighbours.

Preliminary results released by the Central Electoral Commission showed Sarksyan had won 58.6% of the votes cast. His closest rival, American-born Raffi Hovannisian, who served previously as foreign minister, was winning nearly 37% of votes.

The opposition Heritage Party said that some ballots cast for opposition parties had been thrown out, although there was no indication whether it would challenge the vote, which passed without any major violence.

Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said the election was peaceful and generally well conducted.

"However, the limited field of candidates meant that the election was not genuinely competitive," they said in a written statement. "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."

The last presidential election, in 2008, was marred by clashes in which 10 people were killed, but there were no reports of violence this time.

Poverty, unemployment, corruption and emigration continue to plague Armenia, a small but fiercely proud nation of 3 million people that has been wracked by conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan.

Armenia's economic problems are aggravated by a trade blockade imposed by neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan since the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Despite these problems, Armenia's economy experienced several years of double-digit growth before a sharp downturn set in in 2008.

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