By Emil Danielyan
Armenians appeared to have showed stronger-than-expected interest in the election of their new parliament on Saturday, turning out to vote in visibly larger numbers than they did four years ago.
According to the Central Election Commission, at least 57 percent of some 2.3 million eligible voters cast ballots before the closure of polls at 8 p.m. local time. The CEC chairman, Garegin Azarian, said the figure does not include data from about a hundred precincts where ballots were still being counted late Saturday.
The reported number compared with the voter turnout of just over 50 percent reported by the CEC during the previous parliamentary elections. Opposition leaders and some election observers dismissed the figure as grossly inflated at the time.
As always, the turnout was higher in the regions outside Yerevan. The highest rate of participation, 72.6 percent, was recorded by election officials in the southeastern Syunik province, followed by the southern Ararat province (65 percent.)
Voters were particularly active in Ararat’s capital Artashat and nearby villages that form one of Armenia’s 41 electoral districts. In one of Artashat’s polling stations, nearly 80 percent of registered voters voted by late afternoon.
“I didn’t expect such a high turnout,” Ruben Avetisian, chairman of the precinct election commission, told RFE/RL. “I have been a member of election commissions before and don’t remember seeing such a high turnout.”
Turnout was even higher in the nearby village of Mkhchian. “Voters have never been so active before,” said the chairman of a local election commission, Mambre Taroyan. “Everyone is going to the polls.”