Armenia President Serge Sarkisian wins new term

An election commission official puts up a poster with information about the candidates in Armenia's presidential election (17 February 2013) The economy has been the major issue in the build-up to the election

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Armenian President Serge Sarkisian has won a second five-year term in office, according to official results.

With ballots from all precincts now counted, Mr Sarkisian received nearly 59% of the vote.

His closest rival, Raffi Hovannisian, took nearly 37%.

Observers have criticised the election for failing to present voters with any real choice, after several of Mr Sarkisian's most well-known opponents withdrew from the contest.

One of the candidates was shot last month in a suspected assassination attempt.

Paruyr Hayrikyan of the National Self-Determination Union was wounded in the shoulder outside his home near Yerevan. He was readmitted to hospital earlier this week after saying he did not feel well.

A fourth candidate, Andrias Ghukasyan, has meanwhile been on hunger strike since the start of the campaign in an effort to persuade the authorities to annul Mr Sarkisian's candidacy and press international observers to boycott the election.

And a fifth, Arman Melikyan, had said he would not vote on Monday because he believed the poll would be rigged in favour of the president.

Armenian presidential candidate Andreas Ghukasyan, who has been on a hunger strike since 21 January, stands in front of a poster protesting against the election in Yerevan (17 February 2013) Presidential candidate Andrias Ghukasyan has been on a hunger strike since 21 January in a bid to derail the election

Last month, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed great concern that "major political parties, which were strongly expected to present presidential candidates, chose not to do so because of their lack of trust in the conduct of the election".

Poverty rife

"I voted today for Armenia's future - for the well-being of our citizens and families," Mr Sarkisian said after voting in the capital, Yerevan.

However, Mr Hovannisian said he had won and called on his rival to recognise his victory.

There were no reports of violence.

Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe are expected to give their verdict on Tuesday.

Mr Sarkisian's victory in the last election in 2008 was followed by deadly clashes between police and opposition supporters, who alleged widespread fraud.

The president's supporters said Monday's vote would show the former Soviet republic was now politically stable. Last May's parliamentary elections, won by Mr Sarkisian's Republican Party, took place without any major incidents.

The economy has been the major issue in the build-up to the election.

Although the economy grew about 7% in 2012, unemployment stands at 16% and more than 30% of the population live below the poverty line.

The country has found it difficult to escape from poverty, partly because of a trade blockade imposed by neighbouring Turkey and Azerbaijan since the 1990s war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

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