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    Armenian President Re-elected

    Preliminary election results show Armenia's president, Serge Sarkisian, has won a second term in office.

    The country's Central Election Commission announced Tuesday that Mr. Sarkisian got nearly 59 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff election. His closest rival, U.S.-born Raffi Hovanessian, got 37 percent of the vote in Monday's election.

    Only about 60 percent of Armenia's 2.5 million eligible voters turned out for the election, which Mr. Sarkisian had been widely expected to win handily over his five challengers.

    Hovanessian has criticized the vote, making accusations of ballot-stuffing and other irregularities.

    International observers with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say voting conditions have improved since the previous election, but also note that this year's polling was marked by voter apathy and the lack of any true competition among the candidates.

    Results are expected to be officially reported next Monday.

    Mr. Sargsyan's expected victory will give another five years to the already 13-year rule of his Republican Party in the small Caucasus nation.



    In a rarity for the former Soviet republics, Armenia was having a genuine multi-party contest. However, the race has been rocky for the landlocked nation.

    Of the eight original candidates, one dropped out, a second refused to vote, a third also refused to vote and went on a hunger strike, a fourth was shot and wounded in an apparent assassination attempt, and a fifth feared arrest after Monday's vote because he knew the suspected shooter.

    Of the last remaining candidates, two were charging fraud even before the first ballot was cast.


    Mr. Sarkisian has thanked his supporters and vowed to continue to work at improving the economy in his next term.



    ``I am grateful, very grateful to our voters, grateful to our society. This election proved once again that our people are capable to unite at the decisive moment and make a right decision. This election was about choosing of our way (to the future).''



    Despite his criticism of the vote, challenger Hovanessian says the election results show Armenians have said "yes" to democracy.



    ``For the first time in 20 years the citizens have said 'yes' to our constitution, 'yes' to the rule of law, 'yes' to democracy in our future. This is not about Raffi (Hovanessian) and Serge (Sarkisian), it is not about the Heritage or the Republican party. It is about the future of the Republic of Armenia.''

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