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Sargsyan wins presidential election
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Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan has won 52.86 percent of vote in a presidential race according to figures released by the elections commission and ensured his victory by passing the required 50-percent of vote threshold to be elected president.

The relatively stable domestic environment, the promise to boost social welfare and divided opposition have benefited Sargsyan in the election, analysts said.

According to official statistics, the gross domestic product of Armenia has kept a double-digit growth in the past seven years. The average income and pension are 170 and 67 US dollars a month. Though the ordinary people are not rich, many of them are satisfied with the present conditions. 

"The government under Sargsyan's leadership is good. Our country is very young and inevitably has some defects, but we can feel that our life is getting better. We believe the future of Armenia will be prosperous with Sargsyan as our president," Asatur Yesayants, a freelance photographer, told Xinhua.

Sargsyan, also Chairman of the Republican Party of Armenia which won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections last May, promised to focus on promoting social welfare - to provide more jobs and raise pensions and wages in a bid to gain more ballots.

His government program include reducing poverty rate from current 26 percent to 6 percent before 2021 and keeping a continual growth of the economy.

After casting his ballot together with his wife at a polling station in the capital Yerevan Tuesday, Sargsyan said if elected he would not enforce radical changes in the government which was formed nine months ago and has been performing quite effectively.

"There are indeed lots of unemployed people, but the government has promised to solve this problem. Many construction projects which started this year brought jobs for us, and my mother's pension has been raised by 60 percent, so life is hopeful," Ruzana, a book seller with a monthly salary of about 100 dollars and an unemployed husband, told Xinhua earlier.
To attract more attention, Sargsyan launched large-scale campaigns before the election, with his posters and campaign advertisements on nearly every window at the sides of major streets and large billboards alongside famous entertainment stars.

The opposition failed to reach an agreement on cooperation before the election. Eight other candidates joined the race, scattering possible support for the likely winner among them and giving Sargsyan more chance.

Sargsyan's victory was challenged by opposition's allegation of rigging.

Opposition leader, first President Levon Ter-Petrosyan has expressed distrust of the election's preliminary results and called a rally to protest after the result was announced by the Central Electoral Commission.

On Wednesday, several international monitoring organizations said that the election has met with their standards though improvements are needed.

The election is "mostly in line with the country's international commitments, although further improvements are necessary," the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement.

Another observer, the Observation Mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States, said in its statement released Wednesday that the election was "free and open".

Sargsyan, born in 1954 in Karabakh, worked as Defense Minister from 1993 to 1995 and then led the national security bodies until 1999. From 1999 to 2007, he served as Secretary of the Republic of Armenia National Security Council. In 2000, he assumed the post of Defense Minister again.

He was appointed Prime Minister in April 2007, and gained re-appointment to the post in June to head the new cabinet which was formed as a result of parliamentary elections last May.

Sargsyan, a member of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) since 2006, became chairman of the RPA council in July 2006 before he was elected as RPA Chairman in November 2007.

(Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2008)

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