As Armenians went to the polls Tuesday in presidential elections expected to go to Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the preferred successor of incumbent Robert Kocharian, the opposition alleged widespread vote rigging.
Three hours before polls were set to close in the small post- Soviet republic turnout was reported to be 36.48 per cent.
Analysts said that while Sarkisian, 53, led in pre-election surveys, there were strong doubts about whether he would garner the more than 50 per cent needed to win a first round outright.
The frontrunner's fiercest challenger, former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, 63, meanwhile accused the government of "mass bribing, ballot stuffing, voting list falsifications" among other voting violations.
"Many dirty things are happening. There have been many violations in this election," the former president said after voting Tuesday.
"This is the last convulsion of a dying power, but it will not help: We will show proof of violations," Ter-Petrossian spokesman Arman Musinyan said.
Ter-Petrosian had already called a mass meeting "to celebrate his victory" Wednesday afternoon, raising fears of post-election unrest in the streets.
Despite progress, over a quarter of Armenians live below the poverty line and widespread perceptions of corruption dog the top candidates.
"Our choice is between bad and worse," was a phrased repeated by voters on election day.
Voting was scheduled to last 12 hours until 1600 GMT and the first official results were expected after midnight. A new election law passed last year forbids voting by Armenian nationals living abroad.
The United States has threatened to withhold 235 million dollars in aid, while further diplomatic relations with the European Union may be contingent on the fairness of Tuesday's vote, which will be monitored by 620 international observers.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's vote monitoring mission was to deliver its assessment on Wednesday afternoon.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Şubat 2008, 11:36