Armenia's top court upholds re-election of Sarksyan

YEREVAN Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:39pm GMT

Serzh Sarksyan (R) and his wife Rita leave a polling station after voting during the presidential election in Yerevan, February 18, 2013. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Serzh Sarksyan (R) and his wife Rita leave a polling station after voting during the presidential election in Yerevan, February 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili

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YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenia's Constitutional Court on Thursday rejected claims by two unsuccessful presidential candidates that a February 18 vote was rigged, upholding the re-election of incumbent Serzh Sarksyan.

The main election body had said there were no violations during the vote that could have influenced its outcome, while international monitors said the ballot was an improvement on previous ones although lacked real competition.

Investors worry over signs of instability in the South Caucasus region, a key transit route for Caspian energy resources to Europe. Violence after the 2008 election that first brought Sarksyan in power killed 10 people.

This time around, Sarksyan won 58.6 percent of votes but his second-placed rival, opposition leader Raffi Hovannisian, asserted that he was the real winner and began a declared hunger strike on March 10.

"The decision is to uphold the federal Election Committee's decision from February 25 on the results of the presidential elections from February 18," said Constitutional Court President Gagik Harutyunyan. The decision cannot be appealed.

Hovannisian, who secured 37 percent of the vote, has staged several peaceful protests in the capital Yerevan over the lost race and has called on Sarksyan to resign.

"We will continue our political fight within the framework of law and constitution until we win," said Hovsep Khurshudyan, spokesman for Hovannisian's Heritage Party.

Armenia, a landlocked former Soviet republic with a population of 3.2 million, has a common security treaty with Russia and hosts of one Moscow's few foreign military bases.

It remains in territorial dispute with neighbouring Azerbaijan two decades after a war between the two over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh killed some 30,000 people.

(Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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