The ruling Republican Party leads Armenia's parliamentary elections, held for the first time since the adoption of constitutional reforms transforming the ex-Soviet country into a parliamentary republic, an exit poll said Sunday.
President Serzh Sarkisian's Republican Party received 46 percent of the vote, while an opposition alliance led by Gagik Tsarukian, a former arm wrestler and one of the country's wealthiest businessmen, came second with 25 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll jointly conducted by Armenia's Sociologists' Association and Baltic Surveys/Gallup International.
The West sees the election as a key democratic test for the landlocked nation of 2.9 million, which has no history of transferring power to the opposition through the ballot box.
Sarkisian has said his government "has made enormous efforts so that (Sunday's) milestone vote is flawless."
But opposition politicians reported violations at polling stations after previously warning that the government is preparing mass electoral fraud.
Turnout stood at 51 percent nine hours after polls opened, the Central Electoral Commission said.
A total of five parties and four electoral blocs were running in Sunday's vote, with 101 parliamentary seats up for grabs under a proportional representation system.
A party needs to clear a five-percent threshold to be represented in parliament, while an electoral bloc made up of several parties needs to garner at least seven percent of the vote.
Voting, which started at 0400 GMT and ended at 1600 GMT, was monitored by international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.