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Progovernment Candidate Wins Armenian Vote Amid Reports Of Fraud

Voters went to the polls amid reports of violence and intimidation.
Voters went to the polls amid reports of violence and intimidation.
YEREVAN -- Ara Simonian of Armenia's progovernment National Accord Party has been declared the winner of the January 10 by-election in a central district of Yerevan, while journalists reported violence and election abuses, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Official results show that Simonian won 57 percent of the vote. Jailed newspaper editor Nikol Pashinian, a senior member of former President Levon Ter-Petrossian's Armenian National Congress (HAK), placed second with 37.5 percent.

Pashinian is in prison awaiting trial on charges of organizing violent clashes in Yerevan following Ter-Petrossian's defeat in the February 2008 presidential election.

The HAK on January 11 released a statement alleging ballot-stuffing, vote buying, and other violations of the country's election law in the by-election. The party called for the election results from at least two polling stations to be annulled.

Election observers and journalists from several media outlets, including RFE/RL, said they were subjected to harassment and even violence at different precincts.

Shortly after the polls opened, a precinct chairman, Gagik Baghdasarian, ordered police and others to prevent journalists, including an RFE/RL reporter, from covering the voting in his precinct. The action led to scuffles as journalists resisted.

Some people later tried to break the microphone of an RFE/RL reporter and also hit a freelance photographer. The RFE/RL reporter, video journalist Karine Simonian, was confronted by a group of young men who denied her access to the winning candidate’s campaign headquarters. One of the men threatened to break Simonian's video camera, causing her to stop her work.

The HAK said one of Pashinian's campaign managers, Petros Makeyan, and two of his companions were beaten outside a polling station in downtown Yerevan. Makeyan was treated at the hospital for a broken nose. The other two were also hospitalized with injuries.

The HAK activists told RFE/RL they were assaulted by people with "shaved heads," and claimed that the incident took place in the presence of a police officer.

In another incident, a dozen young HAK activists were beaten up by a larger group of people while they were campaigning door-to-door for Pashinian.

The campaign leading up to the vote was also marred by violence against HAK activists supporting Pashinian.