Armenian presidential candidate shot

A midnight shooting attack on a presidential candidate threw Armenia's election into disarray Friday, raising the prospect that the vote could be postponed.

Paruir Airikian, 63, was shot and wounded by an unidentified assailant outside his home in the Armenian capital of Yerevan just before midnight. He was recuperating Friday after surgery.

He is one of eight candidates in the Feb. 18 race in this landlocked former Soviet republic and wasn't expected to get more than 1 per cent of the vote. But the attack might force authorities to delay the election, a move that could help opponents of President Serge Sarkisian, who was expected to win an outright victory.

"(The attack was) a provocation against democratic, free and transparent elections," said Eduard Sharmazanov, the deputy speaker of Parliament.

Armenia, a landlocked nation of three million bordering Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Turkey in the volatile Caucasus, has been known for its turbulent and often violent politics. A 1999 attack on Parliament by six gunmen killed the prime minister, the speaker and six other officials and lawmakers.

Armenia's constitution requires the vote to be postponed for two weeks if one of the candidates is unable to take part due to circumstances beyond his control. A further 40-day delay beyond that is also possible.

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