Armenia ruling party wins parliamentary election

Armenian president Serge Sarkisian speaks with journalists at a polling station in Yerevan President Serge Sarkisian has friendly ties with both Russia and the West

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Armenia's ruling Republican Party is on course for a majority of seats in parliament after Sunday's elections.

The Republican Party led by President Serge Sarkisian took 44%, with most votes counted.

The party's former coalition partner, the Prosperous Armenia party, came second with about 30%. And the main opposition group will get a few seats.

International observers said the campaign was inclusive and competitive, but there were some election abuses.

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) praised the "open and peaceful" campaign but voiced concern about the "general lack of confidence in the integrity of the [electoral] process amongst political parties and the general public".

Baroness Nicholson of the Council of Europe, another election watchdog, said the inclusivity of the election was "impressive", with a high turnout - above 60% - and wide age range among voters.

But she said there had been reports of widespread interference with the running of polling stations in the former Soviet republic.

"The authorities must address this unacceptable behaviour before the presidential election next year," she said.

One observer told the BBC that the scene at one polling station in the capital Yerevan was chaotic, with 15% more votes counted than voters registered.

A view shows the explosion of gas-filled balloons during a campaign rally in the central Republic Square in Yerevan, May 4, 2012. A campaign rally of the governing Republican Party was marred by the explosion of gas balloons

The BBC's Damien McGuinness in the Caucasus says there were also reports of people voting without being asked for ID.

And the ink stamps on passports of some people who had already voted faded within 15 minutes, allowing them to vote again, our correspondent adds.

Unemployment and poverty were the main focus of the campaign.

Armenia's economy was badly hit by the 2008-9 global financial crisis, and remains hobbled by a trade blockade imposed by neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan since the 1990s conflict with Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The 2008 presidential vote led to clashes between police and protesters which left 10 people dead after then Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian was declared the winner.

Ahead of Sunday's vote, about 150 people suffered burn injuries when gas-filled balloons exploded during a campaign rally of the Republican Party.

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