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Yerevan’s incumbent Mayor Taron Markarian and his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) were on course to score a comfortable victory in Sunday’s municipal elections marked by low turnout and opposition allegations of vote buying.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) said shortly after midnight that with around 60 percent of ballots cast counted, the HHK won more than 70 percent of the vote. The party headed by President Serzh Sarkisian will therefore control the overwhelming majority of seats in the new municipal council empowered to appoint the city mayor.

The opposition Yelk alliance came in a distant second with 21.2 percent of the vote, according to the official results. The third election contender, the opposition Yerkir Tsirani party, got almost 8 percent.

The CEC put the voter turnout at almost 41 percent. A considerably larger number of Yerevan residents voted in Armenia’s parliamentary elections held on April 2 and also won by the HHK.

Several other major parties and blocs chose not to join the mayoral race in the capital for various reasons. Those included businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s alliance, which finished second in the legislative polls.

“The elections were competitive and democratic, and according to the preliminary results, the HHK team has achieved a convincing victory,” the party’s spokesman and campaign manager, Eduard Sharmazanov, told a late-night news conference.

Yelk did not immediately react to the early vote returns. Its mayoral candidate, Nikol Pashinian, implied after casting a ballot early in the afternoon that the election outcome will be strongly affected by vote bribes handed out by the HHK.

Yerkir Tsirani alleged vote buying and other serious irregularities throughout the day. “This has not been an election,” its mayoral candidate, Zaruhi Postanjian, charged two hours before the closure of the polls.

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