Armenians are casting their ballots in early parliamentary elections on Sunday, after the country’s defeat in a war with Azerbaijan last year over the secessionist Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
In an acting capacity since April 25, reformist Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of the Civil Contract party called the snap election in hopes of renewing his mandate but he is in a tight race with former president Robert Kocharyan, 66, of the Armenia Alliance bloc.
The vote is being monitored by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and closely watched by Russia.
Pashinyan, 46, caused a public uproar for signing a Moscow-brokered peace deal with Azerbaijan in November, after six weeks of fighting between the two former Soviet republics in which more than 6,500 people were killed.
In accordance with the terms of the peace deal, Armenian forces pulled out of three territories – Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin – that had been held by Armenia for about 30 years.
Armenian separatists also relinquished control over parts of the Nagorno-Karabakh captured by Azerbaijan, including the historic town of Shusha. Key provisions of the deal called for the complete withdrawal of Armenian forces and the immediate deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the area.
Thousands of Armenians took to the streets of the capital Yerevan in protest, calling on Pashinyan to resign for signing a peace deal they viewed as a betrayal of their national interests.
Voting stations will close at 8 p.m. local time Sunday.