"The official results in Armenia’s presidential elections show a first-round victory for Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, but the opposition is crying foul and calling protests to contest the verdict.
"Figures, released by the central electoral commission, show Sarkisian having received almost 53 per cent of the vote, with his main rival former President Levon Ter-Petrosian picking up 21.5 per cent. Former speaker of parliament Artur Baghdasarian was awarded 12 per cent of the vote, with the other six candidates far behind...
"However, on February 20, the opposition, which disputed the results organised a rally and mass march through the streets of Yerevan. Tens of thousands of demonstrators filled the whole of the city’s main avenue, Mashtots, chanting 'fight, fight to the end', 'Levon is president', and 'Serzhik, leave!' as they walked through the city to the central electoral commission. Some stayed on Yerevan’s Freedom Square into the evening.
"The electoral commission said that around 70 per cent of voters – or 1,670,000 of an electorate of 2,230,000 – had cast their ballots.
"Ter-Petrosian told his supporters that according to his calculations the number of people who had voted was actually 1.1 million and that a lot of false ballot papers had been put in boxes.
"'Our fight will not stop till our final victory,' said Nikol Pashinian, one of Ter-Petrosian’s campaign team. 'We will never surrender the Republic of Armenia and we will not give our children up to the jackals of Kocharian and Serzh.'
"Differing exit-polls clouded the waters. One by the British firm, Populus, was close to the official result, giving Sarkisian 57 per cent and Ter-Petrosian 17 per cent. However, critics pointed out that the exit poll was commissioned by the pro-government Public Television and the data came from the pro-government Armenian Sociological Association.
"Another poll, by the non-governmental organisation Alliance, gave Ter-Petrosian 38 per cent of the vote and Sarkisian 35 per cent. A third poll by the organisation Alfa GA said that Ter-Petrosian had won – but the Armenian justice ministry said Alfa GA was not a registered organisation.
"With such a lot at stake, everyone was keen to hear the verdict of the 600 international observers who, along with local observers, were monitoring the poll. They basically backed the official results.
"The joint observer mission from the Council of Europe and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement that the conduct of the election was 'mostly in line with the country's international commitments, although further improvements are necessary'.
"'Compared to the previous presidential elections, significant progress was noted with regard to the preparation and conduct of the electoral process,' said Marie Anne Isler, head of the European parliament contingent within the OSCE mission."
Given all the means the government found to oppose Ter-Petrossian in the run-up to the election, I doubt the actual conduct of the voting was as legitimate as all that. The OSCE isn't the CIS as far as monitoring goes, but they couldn't have been everywhere. Still, I doubt we'll see anything like the Rose or Orange Revolutions in Armenia, both of which were aimed at Russian influence as anything else. Russia remains popular in Armenia, and both candidates support close ties.