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Armenia Elections - 2018

The electoral bloc of Armenia's acting prime minister Nikol Pashinyan won a landslide victory in Sunday's snap parliamentary elections, which were triggered by the reformist leader seeking to cement his political authority in the post-Soviet country. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's My Step alliance, the former ruling HHK, and nine other political parties and alliances were vying for seats in the 101-member National Assembly in the early elections set for 09 December 2018.

The bloc led by Pashinyan's Civil Contract party had 70.45 percent of the vote, and trailing in distant second place with 8.37 percent was the Prosperous Armenia party, according to results from 90 percent of precincts, the central election commission said. The centrist My Step bloc also includes the Mission Party headed by rights activist Manuk Sukiasyan. A small liberal pro-Western party, Bright Armenia, also cleared an electoral threshold with 6.33 percent of the votes. Official results showed that the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) was at 4.7 percent, failing to clear the 5 percent threshold to make it into the 101-seat National Assembly. Turnout was 48.6 percent, some 12 percent lower than the previous parliamentary elections in April 2017.

Pashinyan became prime minister in May after spearheading weeks of peaceful anti-government rallies that ousted veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian. The 43-year-old former journalist has pledged to root out endemic corruption and address widespread poverty, earning him supporters in the impoverished landlocked nation of about three million people. "After the elections, we will be developing Armenian democracy and make an economic revolution happen," Pashinyan told reporters after casting his ballot.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the center of the Armenian capital after lawmakers elected Serzh Sarkisian prime minister, cementing his continued dominance of power. The demonstrators massed in Yerevan's Republic Square late on April 17, holding Armenian flags and chanting "Armenia without Serzh." Protests were under way in other cities including Gyumri and Vanadzor, according to local media.

Parliament voted 76 to 17 with no abstentions on April 17 to put Sarkisian back into power just eight days after his presidency ended and his hand-picked successor, Armen Sarkisian, was elected by parliament to a single seven-year term. The appointment of Sarkisian as prime minister came as police detained at least 80 activists who were demonstrating against the move in Yerevan, where crowds have been rallying for days in protest.

Newly elected Prime Minister of Armenia, ex-President Serzh Sargsyan, noted “When submitting the government program, we will already be able to record that we have properly surmounted the Constitution-based transition to a parliamentary system of governance, at least in terms of the formation of the [respective] institutions,” Sargsyan said. “Time has come to deliver ‘meat’ and ‘blood,’ content to those institutions, [and] which we will do together.”

Sargsyan, who was elected prime minister by parliament on April 17 — some eight days after his two-term presidency ended — had previously said he would not seek to become prime minister after newly implemented constitutional changes, which he championed during his presidency, made the office of prime minister more powerful than that of the president.

Tens of thousands of protesters had already amassed in Yerevan's Republic Square, upset at Sargsyan's violation of his own pledge, claiming the shift threatened to make the 63-year-old leader for life. Calling the rare populist political victory a "purely Armenian velvet revolution" — a reference to the 1989 protests that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia—Pashinyan himself had particular reason to celebrate. The 42-year-old opposition lawmaker had been arrested shortly after a brief Sunday meeting with Sargsyan, which was organized with the aim of peacefully ending the protests.

Remarkably, police on April 20 essentially abandoned the streets of downtown Yerevan to the protesters. While security forces appeared to be carrying out orders, the appearance of around 200 soldiers marching with protesters on April 23 marked a remarkable development and appeared to signal government vulnerability. The anti-Sarkisian troops were reportedly part of a contingent of military peacekeepers. The country’s Defense Ministry threatened to discipline them, saying that the service members violated military regulations and the principle of the army’s neutrality in politics.

Nikol Pashinian began his career as a journalist in the 1990s before transitioning into politics. He ran for parliament in 2007, but his party failed to win any seats. When Sargsyan won his first term as president in 2008, a protest followed. Its violent suppression left 10 people dead. Pashinian was blamed as one of the instigators and was jailed for more than a year. After he was freed, Pashinian proceeded to switch parties and was voted into parliament in 2012 and 2017. That same year, he ran in Yerevan's mayoral election, securing 21 percent of the vote as the runner-up.

Early Monday 23 April 2018 came Sargsyan's official statement, declaring "Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was mistaken. ... I am giving up the post of the country’s prime minister. ... The movement in the streets is against my tenure. I comply with your demand." On Monday evening, Armenians still reeling from the dramatic turn of events reacted with everything from smug determination to exuberant optimism to deep skepticism.

Observers were surprised at the success of the protest movement has so quickly galvanized the government, the establishment, and convinced Sargsyan that it was time to go. Even the opposition Armenian politicians didn’t see this as a move that would lead to a clear change of leadership.

Parliament accepted the resignation and now have seven days to put forward the name of a new prime minister. In the meantime, former Armenian prime minister Karen Karapetyan, an ally from Sargsyan's ruling Republican Party was named acting prime minister. Under Armenia's constitution, when the prime minister leaves office political factions in parliament have seven days to put forward the name of a new one for a vote in the legislature. But new parliamentary elections do not necessarily follow.

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinian, who led 11 days of protests that toppled Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, said he was ready to lead the country if asked. "If the people bestow on me this responsibility, I'll assume the responsibility," the lawmaker told a news conference on April 24, a day after Sarkisian shocked the country by stepping down. Pashinian said on April 23 that he plans to discuss the "peaceful transfer of power” with acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, who was a member of Sarkisian's long-ruling Republican Party, and that snap parliamentary elections should be held "within a reasonable time frame."

Armenia’s ruling party said on 28 April 2018 it would not put forward any candidate for prime minister to avoid stoking tensions after more than two weeks of street protests against the South Caucasus nation’s ruling elite. Parliament was due to pick a prime minister on May 1 after the protests, fuelled by anger over the ruling party’s behavior and official corruption, led to the resignation of Serzh Sarksyan as premier. Sarksyan had previously been president for a decade. Eduard Sharmazanov, a spokesman for the ruling Republican Party, said on Saturday it would not put forward any candidate to become prime minister, but would vote as a bloc and unanimously after considering other candidates. “By not putting forward a candidate, we will avoid confrontation and an increase in security risks ... we are not putting anyone forward in the state’s interest,” he told reporters.

Protest leader Nikol Pashinyan, who describes himself as “the people’s choice”, has said the only acceptable scenario for him and his supporters was for parliament to elect him as prime minister. He then wants to snap parliamentary polls which would take place under a new election law. The Republican Party holds a majority of seats in parliament, while Pashinyan did not have enough support in parliament to be elected prime minister.

Armenia's parliament voted against Nikol Pashinian as the country's next prime minister in a narrow 55-to-45 vote, prompting Pashinian to call on supporters to stage a general strike starting on May 2. The vote at a special session of parliament on May 1 came shortly after Vahram Baghdasarian, parliamentary faction leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), announced that his party would vote against Pashinian.

Under Armenia's constitution, the failure of parliament to confirm a prime minister triggers a second vote by the legislature that has been scheduled for May 8. The next parliamentary elections were not due until 2022. But if parliament twice fails to elect a new prime minister with majority support, early elections must be held.

The Velvet Revolution continued to make news in advance of the election of Member of Parliament Nikol Pashinyan of the Yelk Alliance to the post of prime minister on May 8. The parliamentary faction of the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) said it will unanimously adopt a decision on the election of prime minister on May 8. The head of the faction Vahram Baghdasaryan said to journalists on Friday that the party’s r decision will be unified, and on May 8 Armenia will have a new prime minister.

There had been no discussions as to the time frame for a snap parliamentary election in Armenia. Possible extraordinary parliamentary elections will not be held earlier than in autumn. According to the Republic of Armenia’s constitution, if no one got the seat on May 8, then new parliamentary elections must be held within 30-45 days. In this scenario, instead of the seemingly people-representing Nikol Pashinyan, the RPA would be in control and run the election, rendering it far more likely to yield a corrupted, un-democratic, or otherwise unrepresentative result and members of parliament.

Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan was elected as Armenia's new prime minister on 08 May 2018, capping a peaceful revolution driven by weeks of mass protests against corruption and cronyism in the ex-Soviet republic. Pashinian won the vote 59 to 42. The election of Pashinyan, a former newspaper editor who spent time in prison for fomenting unrest, marked a rupture with the cadre of rulers who had run Armenia since the late 1990s.

He spearheaded a protest movement that first forced veteran prime minister Serzh Sarksyan to step down on April 23 and then pressured the ruling party to abandon attempts to block his election as prime minister, the country's most powerful post.

Moscow, which has a military base in Armenia, was wary of an uncontrolled change of power which would pull the country out of its orbit, but Pashinyan has offered assurances that he will not break with the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Pashinyan on his election. "I hope that your activity as the head of the government will contribute to the further strengthening of friendly, allied relations between our countries," he said.

Parliamentary polls had not been scheduled to be held until 2022. Analysts say Pashinyan sought new elections while he is at the peak of his popularity. In September, his bloc scored a landslide victory in municipal elections, winning more than 80 percent of the vote in the capital Yerevan, where nearly 40 percent of the former Soviet Republic's population lives.

Pashinian announced in October he was resigning from the post of prime minister in order to dissolve parliament and force early elections. He has continued to perform his prime-ministerial duties until a new parliament and prime minister are elected. Pashinian pushed for early parliamentary elections following his bloc's landslide victory in the mayoral race in the capital, Yerevan, in a bid to unseat his political opponents in the Republican Party (HHK), who maintained a majority in parliament.

Eleven political parties and alliances submitted documents to vie for seats in the Armenian parliament in the snap elections scheduled for December 9. The deadline to file with the Central Election Commission (CEC) was at the end of the day on November 14. The process of registering the parties will run through November 19. The campaigning period will be from November 26 through December 7, with December 8 to be declared a “day of silence” in which no campaigning will be allowed ahead of the vote.

Pashinian pushed for early parliamentary elections following his bloc's landslide victory in the mayoral race in the capital, Yerevan, in a bid to unseat his political opponents in the Republican Party (HHK), who have maintained a majority in parliament. Pashinian’s My Step alliance consists of current government members and supporters of the movement that came to power in a wave of peaceful street protests last spring. Armenia’s ex-president and ex-prime minister, Serzh Sarkisian, who was ousted by Pashinian in what many in Armenia call a “velvet” revolution in April and May, was not among the candidates and will not be involved in the campaign, according to his party.

The Prosperous Armenia Party headed by tycoon Gagik Tsarukian was also among parties that will bid for seats in the 101-member National Assembly. The list of the newly created Sasna Tsrer All-Armenian Party was headed by Varuzhan Avetisian, one of the leaders of an armed group that seized and for two weeks held a police compound in Yerevan in July 2016, making political demands to the then-government. Avetisian and most other members of the group were arrested but later released and eventually amnestied under the new Armenian administration. The group has vowed to “cease armed struggle” and engage in the political process.

Other parties that submitted documents include: Bright Armenia, headed by lawmaker and former Pashinian ally Edmon Marukian; the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun); the Orinats Yerkir Party; the alliance of the Hanrapetutyun (Republic) and Free Democrats parties called We. Three little-known parties -- the Christian-Democratic Rebirth Party, the National Progress Party, and the Citizen’s Decision Social Democratic Party -- have also registered.

A monitoring mission that included the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a preliminary statement that the polls were held “with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms.” “Open political debate, including in the media, contributed to a vibrant campaign, although cases of inflammatory rhetoric online were of concern,” the statement also pointed out. The international observers added that “general absence of electoral malfeasance, including of vote-buying and pressure on voters, allowed for genuine competition.”

Commission Chairman Tigran Mukuchian said on December 16 that the final official results showed Pashinian's alliance won just over 70 percent of the vote. Earlier unconfirmed results had shown the bloc with about 60 percent of the vote. Mukuchian also confirmed that the former ruling Republican Party of ex-President Serzh Sarkisian failed to clear the 5 percent threshold needed to make it into the 101-seat parliament. Final official results show the Republican Party won just 4.7 percent of the vote, Mukuchian said on December 16.

My Step's closest rival, the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) of businessman Gagik Tsarukian, won just over 8 percent of the vote. The liberal, pro-Western Bright Armenia, a party led by former Pashinian ally Edmon Marukian, was in third place with just over 6 percent. Another rival of Pashinian's alliance, the Dashnaktsutyun party, also failed to clear the 5 percent threshold needed to secure parliamentary seats. It won just 3.9 percent of the vote.

On foreign policy, Pashinyan had said Armenia will "further strengthen (our) strategic alliance with Russia and, at the same time, step up cooperation with the United States and European Union".

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Page last modified: 18-12-2018 18:48:32 ZULU