YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia's ruling party has won just under half of the vote in the nation's parliamentary election, enough to claim a majority of seats, authorities said Monday.
Sunday's election was the first since the ex-Soviet nation modified its constitution to expand the powers of parliament and the prime minister.
The Republican Party of Armenia, led by President Serzh Sargsyan, won 49 percent of the vote, and the bloc led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian trailed with 27 percent, the Central Election Commission said on Monday after all ballots were counted.
Two more parties cleared the 5-percent barrier necessary to get seats in parliament. The official results are to be announced later this week.
Critics see the constitutional amendments as part of Sargsyan's efforts to retain control of the country after he steps down in 2018 due to term limits. If his party controls parliament, he could be appointed prime minister after that.
The observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement on Monday that the vote was "well administered and fundamental freedoms were generally respected." The mission, however, pointed to reports of vote-buying, and pressure on civil servants and employees of private companies.
"Reform is a never-ending process, and I encourage the parliamentary majority and the new government to continue their efforts to transform the country's political culture, in partnership with the opposition, civil society and the international community," Ignacio Sanchez Amor, the mission's special coordinator, said in the statement.