By Shakeh Avoyan and Emil Danielyan
The voter turnout in the Armenian presidential election rose to almost 62 percent following the closure of 1,865 polling stations across the country at 8 p.m. local time, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).
The figure is fairly high for Armenia where many of the approximately 2.3 eligible voters are believed to be absent from the country. It means that a cold weather accompanied by a heavy snowfall did not deter the majority of Armenian citizens from going to the polls.
Queues formed inside some polling stations by early afternoon, leading CEC chairman Artak Sahradian to predict that the turnout will hover between 70 and 75 percent. “I am delighted with the active participation of our people in these elections,” Sahradian told a news conference.
However, the final figure was well below his expectations. The highest rate of participation, 72.3 percent, was reported in the southeastern Syunik province. In Yerevan, it reached 58 percent.
Many of those who chose to cast their ballots appeared convinced that their vote will make a difference. “This is the first time I am voting and I have big hopes,” said Anna Hovsepian, a university student. She said she voted for opposition candidate Artashes Geghamian in the hope of seeing faster economic development and more state benefits for young people of her age.
“I voted for Robert Kocharian because he is the only candidate capable of making Armenia strong, peaceful and prosperous,” said Rafik Sirunian, an elderly literature scholar.
Ashot Kirakosian, a retiree, said he will vote either for Geghamian or another opposition hopeful, Vazgen Manukian, as he was heading for his Yerevan precinct. He said there have been some improvements under Kocharian, but those were not big enough.
“I don’t see any progress,” disagreed another pensioner, Satenik Navasardian. “I can not even heat my home.”
Also according to Sahradian, Armenia’s main electoral body received “no serious complaints” from opposition candidates or election monitors before the closure of the polls. The opposition leaders, however, claimed that they did send to the CEC their joint statement accusing the authorities of vote manipulation.