5:49 p.m. CST, January 31, 2013

(Adds reaction, background)

YEREVAN, Jan 31 (Reuters) - An Armenian presidential candidate was
wounded by unknown gunmen in the capital Yerevan on Thursday night,
police said, in an attack that could delay February's election.

Paruyr Hayrikyan, whose life was not in danger after the shooting,
is one of eight candidates running in the Feb. 18 vote but is not
seen as a strong challenger to Serzh Sarksyan, who is expected to be
re-elected for a second five-year term.

However, according to Armenia's constitution, the election could
be postponed by two weeks if a candidate is unable to campaign or
run. In the event of a candidate's death, a new election is called,
to be held within 40 days.

The 2008 presidential election in Armenia - a landlocked ex-Soviet
republic of 3.2 million that is Russia's main ally in the South
Caucasus - were marred by violent clashes between opposition protesters
and police.

"Those, who did it, wanted to destabilise the situation in the country,
but they failed," Hovik Abrahamyan, the parliamentary speaker,
told reporters.

"It will depend on Paruyr Hayrikyan's condition whether the election
will be postponed or not," he said.

Armenian Shans TV reported that gunmen fired two shots, wounding
Hayrikyan with a bullet to his shoulder, in the courtyard of his
house in the centre of the capital.

He was taken to hospital after his neighbours, who heard shots and
found him, called police and an ambulance.

"(Unknown gunmen) were shooting at the presidential candidate
Paruyr Hayrikyan ... Doctors say his life is not in danger," Vladimir
Gasparyan, the head of the country's police department, told reporters
at the hospital in comments aired by Shans TV.

Hayrikyan, 63, a former dissident, is the leader of a moderate
opposition party, the National Selfdetermination Union.

(Reporting by Hasmik Lazarian; Writing by Margarita Antidze in
Tbilisi; Editing by Alison Williams)