Parliament Chief Headed for Victory In Armenia
ARMENIAN leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who has pledged to win independence for his republic, appeared headed for an easy win as results of its first presidential election trickled in Thursday.Ruben Kandayan, secretary of the Central Election Commission, said results received from about 10 of 66 regional centers "give Levon Ter-Petrosyan a significant lead." Ter-Petrosyan, a quiet, serious man who speaks 10 languages, has led the southern republic since August 1990, when he became chairman of the Armenian parliament. He was so confident of victory that he scarcely bothered to campaign for the election against five opponents. Overall turnout in the poll was about 70 percent. Kandayan said Ter-Petrosyan won 84 percent of the vote in the Artashat region, near the capital Yerevan, and 89 percent in the Bagramyansky Region, home to many Armenian refugees who have fled ethnic conflict in neighboring Azerbaijan. "Assuming he wins, I think people will have voted for political stability, for opening Armenia's doors ... and for a final solution to the Karabakh problem," said a local journalist. "They voted for Armenia to be independent, not just on paper." Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian enclave inside the republic of Azerbaijan that has sought to become part of Armenia. More than 800 people have been killed in four years of clashes over the disputed region. The dispute has played an important role in the otherwise low-key presidential campaign. Ter-Petrosyan's adversaries accused him of going soft on demands for control over the territory. He has called for a negotiated settlement to end the fighting, and his parliamentary spokesman said this week that Armenia was "ready to make reasonable compromises." A preliminary agreement brokered by Russian leader Boris Yeltsin last month has failed to stop hostilities. Tass news agency said Wednesday that 40 people have been killed since the accord was signed. Officials say Ter-Petrosyan flew to Moscow Thursday to meet with President Mikhail Gorbachev and Azeri leader Ayaz Mutalibov to discuss the dispute. On Friday he is expected to sign an economic agreement linking many of the republics of the former Soviet Union, whose centralized power structure collapsed after a failed hard-line coup in August. Armenia declared independence Sept. 23, two days after a referendum in which 99.3 percent of voters came out in favor of secession.