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Armenian Election Commission Orders Recount In By-Election

Voters went to the polls in Yerevan on January 10
Voters went to the polls in Yerevan on January 10
YEREVAN -- Armenia's Central Election Commission has ordered a recount of the votes in a disputed parliamentary by-election, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The recount has reversed results in at least two polling stations in the Yerevan district, giving defeated challenger Nikol Pashinian victory at these stations. There are 10 other polling stations in the district that need to be recounted.

Official results from January 11 had initially given pro-government candidate Ara Simonian 57 percent of the vote to Pashinian's 37.5 percent.

Pashinian and the Armenian National Congress (HAK), of which he is a leading member, condemned the ballot as fraudulent and said they will challenge the results in court.

Pashinian and the HAK alleged a long list of irregularities, including vote buying, ballot stuffing, and intimidation of opposition proxies and election observers by government loyalists.

Pashinian issued a statement saying he understands the "disappointment" of his supporters with the ballot's outcome.

Pashinian is currently in prison while standing trial on charges stemming from the March 2008 unrest in Yerevan. The HAK party said that despite calling the vote fraudulent, it said its vote tally testifies to the party's "strength and growing authority."

Artashes Geghamian, the leader of the pro-presidential National Unity Party (AMK) with which Simonian is affiliated, insisted that the vote was free and fair.

Geghamian also thanked the three parties represented in Armenia's government for facilitating the AMK candidate's victory.

"In my view, the elections solved one issue," Geghamian told RFE/RL. "The parties making up the government once again showed our society that they are determined to go beyond partisan interests and to form a new political culture."

A full recount of the results is expected in the coming days.