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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kocharyan Wins Valid Armenia Poll

YEREVAN, Armenia -- Though Armenia's presidential elections were marred by violations, the vote was valid and Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan was the clear winner, international observers said Wednesday.

Kocharyan was elected Armenia's president with 59.48 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results from the second round runoff vote, the Central Electoral Commission said Wednesday.

Kocharyan's challenger, former Soviet-era Armenian leader Karen Demirchyan, secured 40.52 percent of the vote, the commission said, adding that 68 percent of the electorate participated in the polls.

Two monitoring groups -- the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- agreed Wednesday that the irregularities did not affect the outcome.

"There is no doubt about the legitimacy of the elections,'' the Council of Europe's mission said Wednesday.

However, Demirchyan still hasn't publicly conceded defeat, and his aides continued to insist that his loss may have been due to election fraud.

Despite the observers' report, Demirchyan may still challenge the outcome, his chief campaign aide Armen Khachatryan said Wednesday.

Kocharyan, 43, is considered a nationalist and a technocrat. He has pledged to revive the feeble economy, though there was little improvement during the past year when he served as prime minister.

Before he became prime minister, Kocharyan was the leader of Nagorny Karabakh -- a mostly ethnic Armenian enclave inside neighboring Azerbaijan. The ethnic Armenians control the enclave and the fighting has stopped, but there has been little progress toward a political settlement.

Earlier this year, Kocharyan and his allies pressured President Levon Ter-Petrosyan to resign, arguing that he was willing to make too many concessions to Azerbaijan, which also claims Karabakh.

Kocharyan is expected to take a tough line in future negotiations over Nagorny Karabakh.

Meanwhile, the monitors noted "limited but serious violations'' during the runoff Monday.

"In some areas, the elections fell short of the commitment Armenia has made to OSCE standards." the OSCE statement said, read out to a press conference by U.S. diplomat Sam Brown.

"These shortcomings do not cause us to question the outcome," he added.

Among the irregularities noted by the OSCE, Brown said that "in some precincts in Yerevan there were large discrepancies between signatures and ballots cast."

"In several polling stations, extraordinarily high turnout raises questions over the integrity of the process in these locations," Brown said. "Such inequalities provide opportunities for fraud and abuse, opportunities which in sporadic cases were used."

There had been "irregularities in several instances" with "sufficient indication of vote fraud to require further investigation and possible criminal charges," he said.

But overall, he said, "election day activities were conducted calmly and in accordance with the law in the vast majority of districts."

The OSCE had been notably more critical of the first round of voting on March 16, describing it as "deeply flawed" and calling on the authorities to take concrete steps to prevent fraud in the runoff round. (AP, AFP)