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Armenian Ruling Party In Rare Election Loss

The municipal elections in Ijevan were dogged by allegations of bribery.
YEREVAN -- The ruling party of Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian suffered a rare loss when the long-serving mayor of a northern town was defeated by a candidate representing the Prosperous Armenia Party, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Official preliminary results of the election in the town of Ijevan show that Republican Party (HHK)-affiliated incumbent Varuzhan Nersisian won some 38 percent of the vote on November 13 while his sole challenger, Vartan Ghalumian, garnered some 57 percent.

Ghalumian -- a bitter rival of Nersisian -- is a member of the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a key partner in the ruling coalition.

Nersisian, who has governed the capital of Tavush Province for more than 13 years, cried foul even before the closure of the polls. He accused Ghalumian of bribing voters by giving them cash and flour.

"I have informed law-enforcement bodies about that," Nersisian told RFE/RL. "All of Ijevan is talking about [the bribing]."

Local police detained two men on suspicion of buying votes on November 13. They were both released several hours later.

The Ghalumian campaign and senior BHK figures, who arrived from Yerevan to monitor the election, strongly denied the vote-buying allegations.

Nersisian lodged no formal protests with the local election commission as of the afternoon of November 14

The incumbent mayor has been at loggerheads with Ijevan's municipal council for the past three years. Most of its members, including Ghalumian, have accused him of corruption and mismanagement.

The election outcome could give the BHK a psychological boost in its uneasy relationship with Sarkisian's HHK. Reported friction between the two parties stems from BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian's apparent reluctance to reaffirm support for Sarkisian's reelection in 2013.

Vartan Bostanjian, a BHK parliamentarian, said late last week that Tsarukian's party is capable of garnering more votes than the HHK or any other political force in parliamentary elections due in May.

HHK spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov dismissed that claim.

Read more in Armenian here and here