Yerevan, 17 March 1998 (RFE/RL) - Early unofficial returns from yesterday's presidential election in Armenia show Robert Kocharian, prime minister and acting president, in first place with some 39 percent of the vote. The figure is based on 20 percent of the vote counted. If no candidate wins a majority, a second round is due to be held in two weeks.
Reuters cites Armenia's Central Election Commission as saying that former Soviet-era communist leader Karen Demirchyan is running second with 27 percent. Current Communist Party leader Sergei Badalyan is running third with 18 percent.
Controversy surrounding the vote erupted even before polls closed yesterday, when five of the 12 competing candidates signed a statement saying the vote "cannot be considered free and fair." The statement alleged a large number of violations of law, falsification and intimidation.
Demirchyan, Badalyan, and another leading candidate, former prime minister Vazgen Manukyan, were among those signing. Kocharian dismissed the allegations.
Some 200 international observers who monitored the polling have not yet released an official statement. But individual monitors said they had not detected significant irregularities.
Armenia's Central Election Commission put turnout at some 60 percent.