Elections were called by the prime minister after protests over the country’s defeat in a war with Azerbaijan last year.
The polls opened in Armenia on Sunday for a quick parliamentary election called by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan amid growing rage following the defeat of the war against Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan, who has lost much of his appeal after a military defeat last year against his enemy Azerbaijan, hopes to renew his term, but is in a close race with former President Robert Kocharyan.
His critics accuse him of ceding strips of territory to the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan in a truce agreement that ended last year’s struggle and of failing to deliver on promises of reform.
During an aggressive campaign marked by polarizing rhetoric, Pashinyan said he expected his Civil Contract party to get 60% of the vote, though some pollsters say those estimates are far-fetched.
Elections in the South Caucasus country of about three million people will be followed by the Soviet-era master of Armenia, Russia and Turkey, who backed Azerbaijan in last year’s six-week war on Nagorno -Karabakh.
Political observers say the election result is difficult to predict, as voter apathy is rising and both Pashinyan and Kocharyan are attracting massive masses in the final days of the race.
In a poisonous campaign, candidates exchange insults and threats and the two leaders are expected to hold rallies after the election.
Pashinyan, 46, hammered at rallies, while Kocharyan, 66, said he would be willing to fight the prime minister in a duel and said he planned to fix the vote.
“Time of change”
Armenian President Armen Sarkisian, largely a ceremonial figure, denied attempts to “incite hatred and enmity” and urged law enforcement to prevent any rape.
“These elections are taking place in a difficult situation,” he said on Saturday. “They are of crucial importance to our state and our people.”
Critics of the prime minister accuse him of ceding strips of territory to Karabakh and its environs in Azerbaijan in a truce agreement that ended last year’s fighting and failed to deliver on promises of reform.
Pashinyan says he had to accept the truce promoted by Moscow with Azerbaijan to avoid further human and territorial losses.
More than 6,500 people died in the war, according to the latest estimates from Armenia and Azerbaijan.