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Tight race as Pashinyan, Kocharyan compete in Armenia snap election

Armenia’s ex-president Robert Kocharyan speaks and gestures during a campaign rally in central Yerevan, on June 18, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Armenia has launched early parliamentary elections in an effort to resolve the political dispute triggered by the country's defeat in last year's war against neighboring Azerbaijan.

Voters in the South Caucasus country flocked to the polls on Sunday in a tight race that analysts say is hard to predict between the Civil Contract party of acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, 46, and the Armenia Alliance formed by of former president Robert Kocharyan, 66.

The reformist Pashinyan, whose popularity has plummeted due to the defeat against Azerbaijan, is hoping to renew his mandate.

He has said that he aims to secure an unlikely 60 percent of the ballots.

Pashinyan's supporters believe he deserves another chance to deliver on the promised reforms.

Critics, however, stand on the other side of the equation.

They blame Pashinyan for losing large swathes of land in and around Nagorno-Karabakh region to Azerbaijan in a truce agreement that was brokered by Russia, ending the territorial conflict that left thousands of people dead.

Meanwhile, Kocharyan is seen in the public eye as a strong pro-Russia leader, who is better experienced to regain the territory lost to Azerbaijan.

He has the support of many Armenians who consider national security as the top priority.

Kocharyan, who himself hails from the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, was one of the military leaders in the first war with Azerbaijan in the 1990s.

He served as president of Armenia from 1998 to 2008.

According to a poll released on Friday by Gallup-affiliated MPG, 28.7% of voters favored Kocharyan's Armenia Alliance, while 25.2% supported Pashinyan's Civil Contract party.

"We wish a successful election to our close ally and partner," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

Turkey, which supported Azerbaijan in last year's conflict, will also be watching closely.



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