YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia's president easily won a second term, according to preliminary election results Tuesday, but his main rival claimed vote fraud and thousands of his supporters held a protest rally.
President Serge Sarkisian received nearly 59 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff, Tigran Mukuchian, chairman of the country's Central Election Commission, said Tuesday.
The 58-year-old Sarkisian was widely expected to win. He has overseen a return to economic growth after years of stagnation, although the former Soviet republic still suffers from widespread poverty.
The closest of his six rivals, American-born Raffi Hovanessian, got 37 percent of the vote.
Hovanessian, Armenia's first foreign minister after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, on Tuesday called the election unfair and rigged, claiming cases of ballot-box stuffing and voters being coerced to back Sarkisian.
At a protest rally in the capital that drew 2,000-3,000 people, Hovanessian declared himself the genuine winner and called on Sarkisian to arrange a transfer of power by Wednesday evening.
The rally ended peacefully, but some participants later held a march chanting "Raffi is president."
Just over 60 percent of Armenia's 2.5 million eligible voters cast ballots in Monday's election, the election commission said. All the votes have been counted, but the winner will not be officially declared until Feb. 25.