Armenia Elections - 1991
The Republic of Armenia declared its sovereignty on August 23, 1990, and became an independent state a year later, on September 23, 1991, when Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum. In October 1991, Levon Ter-Petrosian, who had been elected democratically as chairman of the Armenian Supreme Soviet under the Soviet system in 1990, was chosen president of the republic in a six-candidate election that gave him 83% of the vote. Ter-Petrossian had been elected head of government in 1990, when the Armenian National Movement defeated the Communist Party.
Levon Ter-Petrosian, a former philologist and a founding member of the Karabakh Committee, became the first president of independent Armenia. Ter-Petrosian has occupied the political center of Armenian politics as the single most important politician in the country and the principal advocate of moderate policies in the face of nationalist emotionalism. The parliamentary plurality that Ter-Petrosian's party, the Armenian Pannational Movement (APM), enjoyed at the formation of the republic in 1991 enhanced presidential authority at the expense of parliament, where the majority of seats were divided among many parties. Beginning in 1992, Ter-Petrosian took several controversial unilateral actions on major issues, which brought accusations of abuse of power.
As of early 1994, Armenia was a reasonably stable democratic state, although its party structure was fractious and its legislative branch ineffectual. Because no consensus could be reached on a new constitution, a standoff between parliament and the president remained unresolved in early 1994.
As it has developed in the 1990s, the Armenian presidency was the most powerful position in government. More than a ceremonial head of state, the president was the most active proposer of new legislation, the chief architect of foreign and military policy, and, during Armenia's prolonged state of national emergency, the unchallenged center of government power in many areas. The Council of Ministers underwent a series of changes in the early 1990s as Ter-Petrosian sought a prime minister with whom he could work effectively. As a result, four men occupied that position between 1991 and 1993. The principal source of friction within government circles is factional disagreement about the appropriate elements and pace of economic reform. In the first years of independence, most of the members of the council have belonged to the APM.
In the absence of a new constitution, the Government's legitimacy rested on the 1990 Law on the Presidency and the 1991 Law on Parliament. The Law on Parliament established a multiparty system. The large number of seats won by those occupying full-time jobs in local government offices around the country and Armenia's economic problems frequently made it difficult to muster a quorum, thus limiting the effectiveness of Parliament. On 21 December 1994, a total of 46 opposition and independent deputies resigned their parliamentary commissions in protest over what they called government ineffectiveness. Their action appeared to be serious and made it almost impossible for the Parliament to muster a quorum prior to new elections in May 1995.
On 28 December 1994, President Ter-Petrosyan temporarily suspended one of the largest opposition parties, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, also known as "Dashnaks"), on the grounds that the party was operating a clandestine terrorist organization involved in drug smuggling, assassination, and espionage. Several party members were arrested in conjunction with these activities, and Dashnak newspapers were closed. Armenian government officials indicated that the Dashnaks could reorganize and the ARF could again be registered as a political party if it purged itself of criminal elements. Leaders of the Dashnak party have denounced the suspension. The question of what requirements the Party will have to fulfill in order to reconstitute itself was under review in early 1995 by the Ministry of Justice.
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