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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

With an Eye on a Better Life, Armenians Vote for a Leader

APArmenians casting ballots for president at a Yerevan polling station on Wednesday.
YEREVAN, Armenia -- President Robert Kocharyan faced eight challengers Wednesday in an election Armenians hoped would bring better living standards.

The incumbent president was widely expected to defeat the divided opposition and secure the necessary 50 percent of the votes to win a first-round victory. Election officials said 61.9 percent of registered voters cast ballots, and that no major violations have been reported.

After casting his ballot at a school in central Yerevan, Kocharyan, 48, said he hoped the election would bring Armenians "five years of normal and stable life."

Alexander Grigoryan, a theater director, said he voted for Kocharyan because he could see visible political and economic improvements during Kocharyan's first term.

"The president is fighting for the Armenians' national dignity," he said.

But a retiree who identified herself as Emma said she had been disappointed by Kocharyan and opted for his main rival, People's Party leader Stepan Demirchyan, who ran on an anti-corruption platform. "They have forgotten about us [retirees]. My pension is only 5,000 dram ($9)," she said.

If no candidate wins a majority, there will be a runoff. Preliminary results are expected Thursday.

National Unity Party leader Artashes Gegamyan, the third most popular candidate according to opinion polls, alleged that the military had been given ballots already filled in Kocharyan's favor and that not all ballot boxes were sealed. Election commission spokesman Gamlet Abramyan said, however, that most allegations of irregularities emerged because many opposition observers did not know the election law.