Early results from a post-war snap parliamentary vote in Armenia showed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's party leading with 58.5 percent of the vote, far ahead of ex-president Robert Kocharyan's alliance with 18.5 percent.
Early results in Armenia’s snap parliamentary elections have shown the party of the acting prime minister far ahead of rivals.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan claimed victory early on Monday in a post-war snap parliamentary vote with ballots from more than 30 percent of precincts counted.
"The people of Armenia gave our Civil Contract party a mandate to lead the country and personally to me to lead the country as prime minister," Pashinyan said in a speech broadcast on his Facebook page.
Early results from a post-war snap parliamentary vote in Armenia showed Prime Minister Pashinyan's party leading early on Monday with 58.5 percent of the vote, far ahead of ex-president Robert Kocharyan's alliance with 18.5 percent.
Official results based on ballots from 30 percent of precincts counted showed one other party garnering more than 5 percent of the vote.
The country’s elections commission said on Sunday that with votes counted from about 8% of Armenia’s 2008 precincts, Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party had nearly 62% of the vote with former president Kocharyan’s party in a distant second place with 18%.
The early election was called by Pashinyan in a bid to ease public anger over the peace deal he signed as prime minister in November, which set off months of protests demanding his resignation.
Armenia opposition challenger contests vote results
The electoral bloc of former Armenian president Kocharyan said early on Monday it would not recognise Pashinyan's claim to victory in a post-war snap parliamentary vote.
"Hundreds of signals from polling stations testifying to organised and planned falsifications serve as a serious reason for lack of trust," the bloc said in a statement, adding it would not "recognise" the results until the "violations" were studied.
Pashinyan under pressure since war defeat
The Moscow-brokered agreement ended six weeks of fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, but saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century. Thousands of Armenians took to the streets in the capital of Yerevan to protest the deal as a betrayal of national interests.
More than 6,000 people were killed last fall in the six weeks of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies within Azerbaijan but was under the occupation of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.
Despite the high emotions over the war defeat and the calls for Pashinyan to resign, election turnout was lukewarm — only 49% of eligible voters cast ballots.
After calling the election, Pashinyan stepped down from the premiership as required by law to allow the election to take place but remains the country's leader as acting prime minister. The new parliament could restore him to the full post or choose a new prime minister.
Pashinyan, who came to power after leading large street protests in 2018 that ousted his predecessor, has defended the deal as a painful but necessary move that prevented Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.
'Against old ways'
On the streets of Yerevan, Armenians voiced conflicting opinions about Pashinyan.
Voter Anahit Sargsyan said the prime minister deserved another chance. She feared the return of the old guard whom she accused of plundering the country, she added.
"I voted against a return to the old ways," said the 63-year-old former teacher.
Another voter, Vardan Hovhannisyan, said he had cast his ballot for Kocharyan, who calls Russian leader Vladimir Putin his friend.
"I voted for secure borders, solidarity in society, the return of our war prisoners, the well-being of the wounded and a strong army," said the 41-year-old musician.
Critics blame Pashinyan for having ceded territory in and around Karabakh to Azerbaijan in a humiliating truce agreement, and accuse him of having failed to deliver reforms.
Pashinyan says he had to agree to the Moscow-brokered peace deal with Azerbaijan in order to prevent further human and territorial losses.
Besides Kocharyan, two other leaders of post-Soviet Armenia are backing parties in the race. All three oppose Pashinyan.
Kocharyan calls for probe
Voting was held in a relatively calm atmosphere, but Kocharyan called for a probe into the appearance of leaflets attacking him.
His bloc also alleged irregularities and said the security service had searched its campaign offices in the southern town of Sisian.
Kocharyan was himself accused of rigging a presidential election in favour of his hand-picked ally and presiding over a deadly crackdown on protesters in 2008.
Armenia won international praise for holding its first free and fair vote under Pashinyan in 2018.
During a venomous campaign, candidates exchanged insults and threats. Pashinyan, 46, brandished a hammer at rallies, while Kocharyan, 66, said he would be ready to fight the prime minister in a duel.
A record four electoral blocs and 21 parties are running for election but only a handful are expected to win five-year terms in parliament.
A winning party needs to obtain at least 50 percent of seats plus one and can be assigned additional seats in order to form a government. Analysts do not rule out a second round.