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Exit poll gives Armenian leader new term

YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenian President Serge Sarkisian, who has overseen a modest economic recovery, was reelected Monday, according to an exit poll.

The poll of 19,130 voters conducted by Gallup and other pollsters showed Sarkisian winning 58 percent of the ballots. The closest of his six rivals, the American-born Raffi Hovanessian, who was post-Soviet Armenia’s first foreign minister, polled 32 percent.

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Just over 60 percent of Armenia’s 2.5 million eligible voters cast ballots, according to the Central Election Commission. Full preliminary results are expected Tuesday.

A strong performance by Sarkisian appears to have helped him avoid a runoff, which would be required if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote.

Sarkisian’s victory had been expected. He has overseen a return to economic growth after years of stagnation, although the former Soviet republic still suffers from widespread poverty. World Bank figures for 2010, the most recent year tallied, show nearly 36 percent of the country living below the national poverty line. Average wages are about $300 a month.

The top challenger, Hovanessian, accused Sarkisian of losing an arms race with Azerbaijan, a long-standing rival.

He also contended that billions of dollars have disappeared from the state budget because of corruption under Sarkisian and emphasized the large number of Armenians leaving the country to pursue better opportunities.

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