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Armenia Election - 2017

On 02 April 2017 Armenians voted in parliamentary elections in what was expected to be a tight parliamentary race, based on the track record of President Serzh Sarkisian and the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) he headed. And despite widespread popular discontent, due partly to the deteriorating economic situation and partly to lingering doubts over the legitimacy of its victory in the 2012 ballot, the HHK was likely to poll enough seats to garner a majority in the new legislature and form a coalition government.

President Serzh Sarksyan's ruling Republican Party won elections. The Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) had 49.12 percent of the votes while the opposition Tsarukyan Alliance led by wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukyan gathered 27.32 percent. The government-loyal Dashnaktsutyun Party had 6.57 percent and the opposition bloc Yelk ("Way Out") 7.77 percent, enough for both to enter parliament. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said there had been abuses in the election including vote-buying, putting pressure on public servants, and intimidating of voters to vote for certain parties. It said in a statement the poll was "well administered and fundamental freedoms were generally respected", but added: "There was credible information of vote-buying, of pressure on public servants including in schools and hospitals, and of intimidation of voters to vote for certain parties."

Like Sarkisian and former President Robert Kocharian, with whom he is reportedly on good terms, Karapetian was born in Nagorno-Karabakh. He is reputed to be a competent economic manager. Russia's concern was that Sarkisian, who did not make any public comment on the Sasna Tsrer hostage-taking until five days after it began, was losing his grip. Sarkisian may in turn have been persuaded that Karapetian is competent to deliver the kind of tangible change for the better that the population so desperately wants.

The coalition behind businessman and former world champion arm wrestler Gagik Tsarukian has voiced suspicions that the government was preparing electoral fraud. Ahead of the vote, the US Embassy and the EU delegation to Armenia also said they were "concerned by allegations of voter intimidation, attempts to buy votes, and the systemic use of administrative resources to aid certain competing parties." Tsarukian, is considered to be one of richest people in Armenia. During the campaign, the oligarch vowed to cut tariffs on natural gas and electricity and boost public-sector salaries and pensions.

Outgoing Armenian PM Hovik Abrahamyan, who was appointed two years earlier, had overseen a deterioration in economic growth, which slowed to 3 percent in 2015 from 3.5 percent in 2014 - below the government's growth forecast of 4.1 percent. Abrahamyan was replaced in September 2016 by Karen Karapetyan, a former head of national gas distributing company ArmRosGazprom. Karapetyan, who previously served as mayor of the capital city, Yerevan, worked as the first vice-president of Gazprombank - connected to Russia's main oil and gas company, Gazprom - and was deputy CEO of Russian gas producer Gazprom's GAZP.MM Mezhregiongaz unit.

Parties needed to overcome a 5 percent benchmark to secure representation in parliament, while the threshold for alliances is 7 percent. A total of five parties and four blocs with around 1,500 candidates took part in the elections. Armenia’s National Assembly has no limit on the maximum number of seats, with the law only stating that a minimum of 101 deputies is required to form a stable parliamentary majority of 54 percent. The new one-chamber parliament, elected for five years, is to appoint a ceremonial head of state in 2018 when President Sargsyan’s term expires.

Armenia’s ruling Republican Party along with three other parties made it into parliament in the country’s first general elections since adopting constitutional reforms which extended powers of the legislature and the prime minister. The Republican Party of Armenia, headed by current President Serzh Sargsyan, garnered 770,441 votes and secured the victory. The country’s leading businessman, Gagik Tsarukyan, and his “Tsarukyan” bloc came in second with almost half as many votes (428,836). The ‘Elk’ (Way Out) opposition alliance garnered 122,065 of votes and is third on the list. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (also known as Dashnaktsutyun) tailed the set of the parties that won seats in the parliament, with 103,048 votes. The Republican Party has received 55 seats in the parliament, while 31 seats go to the Tsarukyan bloc. Nine seats were taken by the Elk opposition alliance, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation got seven seats.

The new government is reportedly likely to be temporary, with the new configuration emerging only after the 2017 parliamentary election and the end of Russian-allied President Serzh Sarkisian's second term in 2018, when the transition from a semi-presidential form of government to a parliamentary republic is completed.

When Sarkisian's second term expires in early 2018, the country switches from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system in line with constitutional amendments narrowly approved in a referendum in December 2015. Government critics believe that the reform was aiming to allow Sargsyan to keep his leading role after his term ends, this time as prime minister rather than president. The constitutional amendments approved in December 2015, which will take effect after Sarkisian's second presidential term expires in March 2018, stipulate that cabinet ministers must be selected from among parliamentarians.

Both major parties support close ties with Russia, the key ally in the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh against Azerbaijan. That Sarkisian will then succeed in taking over the role of prime minister is not a foregone conclusion, especially given indications that Moscow may prefer to see incumbent Prime Minister Karen Karapetian retain his post. Moscow now regards Karapetian, not Sarkisian, as its main partner in Armenia. But Karapetian is technically not eligible to run for parliament in light of the requirement that candidates must have lived in Armenia for four years prior to the ballot.

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Page last modified: 09-04-2017 16:00:39 ZULU