A total of 1,988 polling stations across Armenia opened at 8.00 am Monday for a 12-hour balloting in which Armenian voters will be electing their president for the next five years.
On the ballot are the names of seven candidates in Armenian alphabetical order. They are: Liberty Party chairman, ex-prime minister Hrant Bagratyan, National Self-Determination Union leader Paruyr Hayrikyan, Heritage Party leader, ex-foreign minister Raffi Hovannisian, Radio Hay director, political analyst Andrias Ghukasyan, ex-foreign minister of Karabakh Arman Melikyan, current President and leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and non-partisan specialist in epic studies Vardan Sedrakyan.
The Armenian presidential election is held according to a double-ballot system with a possibility of a runoff if none of the candidates manages to poll more than 50 percent of the vote the first time around. Such a runoff is held between the top two finishers two weeks after the first ballot.
Authorities estimate the number of eligible voters in Armenia at around 2.5 million, admittedly including between 500,000 and 700,000 citizens who are currently outside Armenia and, in accordance with the country’s current legislation, are not eligible to vote.
The highest voter turnouts observed in Armenian presidential elections were during the first and latest post-independence ballots – in 1991 and 2008, when about 70 percent went to the polls. Reported turnout figures during the three presidential polls in-between fluctuated between 50 and 65 percent.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) is expected to update turnout figures several times during the day, with early results of the vote due early tomorrow morning. The preliminary report of the CEC (www.elections.am) on the ballot is due within 22 hours after polling stations close tonight – i.e. 6 pm on February 19. The final results of the presidential election are to be announced on February 25.
A number of international and local organizations are monitoring the Monday vote, with the largest international mission, OSCE/ODIHR, deploying 250 short-term observers. There are also observers from the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Commonwealth of Independent States and other international and local organizations.