Dec 09, 2018 08:39 UTC

Armenians are heading to the polls to cast their ballots in snap parliamentary elections initiated by acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who swept to power after protests earlier this year.

According to Press TV, polls opened across Armenia at 8:00 a.m. local time (04:00 GMT) on Sunday and will close at 16:00 GMT, with more than 2.5 million people eligible to vote.

Armenia’s electoral commission said nine parties and two blocs were vying for seats in the 101-member National Assembly, but the vote mainly pits Pashinyan’s My Step Alliance against the formerly ruling Republican (HHK) Party.

Pashinyan, who had been elected prime minister by lawmakers in May after weeks of mass protests against alleged corruption and graft in the country, announced his resignation from the post in October in order to dissolve parliament and force early elections with an eye on a parliamentary majority for his party.

Opinion polls indicate that Pashinyan’s My Step Alliance is on course to achieving a parliamentary majority ahead of the HHK, which has dominated the current parliament since 2017.

A Gallup poll conducted between December 1 and December 4 among 1,100 voters gave a sizable lead to My Step Alliance among all other parties with 69.4 percent of public support.

“We set big and difficult goals and we will achieve them, because we are a powerful, victorious free and happy nation,” Pashinyan said at a recent campaign rally.

The journalist-turned-politician’s party also gained a landslide victory in the municipal elections in the capital, Yerevan, in September.

Pashinyan, whose popularity is reportedly based on his anti-corruption and economic reform stance, spearheaded weeks of protests in March and April that led to the resignation of former Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan.

Pashinyan and his followers accused Sargsyan of trying to cling onto power by becoming prime minister after serving two terms as president.

Nearly a third of the population of Armenia — a former Soviet state of three million — are officially classed as poor and the unemployment rate stands at about 16 percent.

The 43-year-old Pashinyan has vowed to maintain Armenia’s close ties with Russia and has also spoken of desires to increase the South Caucasus nation’s relations with the United States and Europe.

The results of the Sunday vote are expected to be released in the early hours of Monday.