YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Allies of Armenia’s new leader have won an overwhelming majority of seats in the country’s early parliamentary election, according to preliminary results released Monday.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, a 43-year-old former journalist, took over in May after spearheading massive protests that forced his predecessor to step down. He had pushed for an early parliamentary vote to win control of the chamber that was dominated by his political foes.
Pashinian himself has found broad popularity, tapping into public anger over widespread poverty, high unemployment and rampant corruption in the former Soviet nation of 3 million that borders Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran.
A preliminary count from all precincts posted Monday on the website of the Armenian Central Election Commission on show Pashinian’s My Step bloc winning more than 70 percent of the vote in Sunday’s ballot. The pro-business Prosperous Armenia party came second with about 8 percent of the ballot.
Those figures represent a crushing defeat for the former ruling Republicans Party of Armenia’s longtime leader Serzh Sargsyan, who was ousted from office in May by the protests led by Pashinian. Sargsyan was accused of trying to cling to power by switching to be prime minister after 10 years as president, and lasted only days in that role.
The preliminary vote results Monday showed the Republicans polling less than 5 percent, which means it will be unlikely to make it into parliament.
An election observers’ mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Monday praised the election for “genuine competition,” saying the vote was “held with respect to fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust.” The OSCE noted there was no vote-buying or pressure on voters but expressed concern over “cases of inflammatory rhetoric online.”
After seven months on the job, Pashinian remains widely popular, particularly among the young, and has conducted a careful balancing act in his foreign policy, maintaining strong ties with Russia, Iran and the West. During the monthlong campaign, he blasted members of the old elite as corrupt and pledged to revive the economy, create new jobs and encourage more Armenians to return home.
Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report from Moscow.
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