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Armenians Vote Today for President

October 16, 1991

MOSCOW (AP) _ Voters in Armenia cast ballots today in the first direct presidential election in the southern republic’s history, with incumbent Levon Ter- Petrosian expected to easily defeat five challengers.

The 46-year-old Ter-Petrosian has guided the republic on a path toward independence despite the after-effects of a devastating 1988 earthquake and ethnic warfare with neighboring Azerbaijan.

Armenia, with 3.2 million residents, formally declared independence Sept. 23, becoming the 12th Soviet republic to do so and leaving only Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenia formally in the nominal union.

In addition to the presidential balloting, Armenians were to choose 20 deputies to the parliament, the Soviet news agency Tass said.

Partial returns are expected Thursday.

Ter-Petrosian has done little campaigning, limiting himself to one television appearance, Tass said.

His challengers were Paruir Arikyan, chairman of the National Self- Determination Association; Rafael Kazarian, chairman of a parliamentary commission on education, science, language and culture; Ashot Navasardian, leader of the Armenian Republican Party; Sos Sarkisian, chairman of the Dashnaktsutyun Party; and Zoriy Balayan, a deputy to the Soviet parliament.

Ter-Petrosian was elected president by the Armenian parliament on Aug. 4, 1990, defeating the Armenian Communist Party chief.

Ter-Petrosian spent six months in jail in 1989 for organizing demonstrations against Azerbaijani control of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan, has left hundreds of people dead and thousands homeless since 1988. The dispute between Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan dates back for centuries, but flared in 1988 when Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh expressed a desire to unite with Armenia.

A truce brokered last month by Russia and Kazakhstan has collapsed, with bloodshed and kidnappings continuing.

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