Voting has begun in the Armenian presidential elections where current President Serzh Sarksyan is bidding for a second consecutive term in office.
Elected in a vote marred by fraud and deadly violence in 2008, this year’s poll has seen the leading opposition figures decline the challenge, so Sarksyan has scored 60% in opinion polls, with his nearest challenger barely making double figures.
One outsider candidate is currently in hospital after being shot, while another has been on hunger strike since the start of the campaign to demand Sarksyan’s candidacy be annulled, and for the international observers in Armenia to boycott the vote.
Council of Europe officials observed on a January visit that there was an atmosphere of apathy towards the vote, and that few people expressed confidence in the electoral process.
Sarksyan is a native of the Nagorno-Karabakh region wrested from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s. He says he is pursuing peace talks with Armenia’s neighbour, but is ready to fight for the territory again if necessary.