Armenian president promises security after election victory

Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:56am EST
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By Hasmik Mkrtchyan

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan promised on Tuesday to make the country secure and stable after cruising to victory in an election which international vote monitors said lacked real competition.

But Sarksyan faces a challenge in his second five-year term to prevent tensions increasing with Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh that could lead to a new war in the South Caucasus, where pipelines carry Caspian oil and gas to Europe.

Preliminary results showed Sarksyan won 58.6 percent of the votes cast in Monday's election, enough to avoid a second-round run-off. His closest rival, U.S.-born former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian, trailed on nearly 37 percent.

"Armenia chose the path towards a safe Armenia and I am happy and proud of the fact that every resident of Armenia will be on that path," Sarksyan, 58, told celebrating supporters.

International observers said the vote was an improvement on recent elections in the former Soviet republic, including the 2008 presidential ballot in which 10 people were killed.

"However, the limited field of candidates meant that the election was not genuinely competitive," representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a 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."

Several of Sarksyan's potential rivals, most notably former President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, decided not to run because they feared the election would be skewed in the president's favor.   Continued...

Armenia's current President Serzh Sarksyan (R) and his wife Rita leave a polling station after voting during the presidential election in Yerevan, February 18, 2013. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili