Armenia’s protest leader and acting PM sweeps the elections

Tue 11 Dec 2018

Armenia’s protest leader and acting PM sweeps the elections

Nikol Pashinyan won convincingly with his My Step Alliance in the early parliamentary elections with 70.4% of the votes. With this win, Pashinyan has the majority in the parliament which gives him the opportunity to impose the demanded reforms of the Velvet Revolution last spring. Pashinyan’s victory is not surprising. In the city council elections in Yerevan in September, which were seen as a grand rehearsal for the parliamentary elections, the My Step Alliance won a landslide victory of 81%. The elections were considered as a first test for the post-revolutionary government, .

11 parties participated in the elections, but only two other parties beside the My Step alliance will enter the National Assembly: Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), led by tycoon Gagik Tsarukyan, with 8.4% and Bright Armenia, a former ally of Pashinyan’s, with 6.4%. The former ruling party, Republican Party (HHK), gained only 4.7% of the votes falling short of the required 5% threshold Its occasional coalition partner, Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsyutsyun, also failed to pass the threshold gaining only 3.9%. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers  called the elections “democratic”, saying they were held in freedom and there was genuine competition without vote buying and pressure on voters. The previous parliamentary elections were marked by fraud, but according to the OSCE this was not the case this time. While the HHK claims irregularities, European observers said they saw no proof for those claims. The turnout was 48.6% which is 12% lower than with the previous elections.

Revolution

The early elections were the result of the Velvet Revolution last Spring. Week after week, thousands of people protested against corruption and demanded democratic reforms. Pashinyan became the face of the protest. He is a former journalist, former political prisoner and an opposition activist. In March he initiated and led the My Step movement which became a leading force in the revolution, bringing him to power. However, the Republican Party kept the majority in the parliament until now and therefore it was almost impossible for Pashinyan to pursue his agenda. In October Pashinyan stepped down so the parliament would be dissolved and paved the way for early elections. In the meantime Pashinyan continued as the acting  prime minister.

The My Step Alliance is a political alliance formed by the Civil Contract, the party of Pashinyan, the Mission Party and representatives of the civil society.  The alliance tried to attract a broad range of voters and does not have a clear left or right ideology.  Their main aim is to reform the economy by breaking down the existing monopolies and create a democratic country whereby politics is transparent.

Foreign policy

Pashinyan already declared that there will be no major shifts in the foreign policy. Armenia will continue cooperation with the EU, but is not trying to become NATO member. He has also said the relationship with Russia will stay strong and intact. Armenia dependents on Russia for security and gas. It is also a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

Future

Now Pashinyan has the majority in the parliament he is in a position to live up to his promises: eradication of corruption and monopolies, reduce the number of people in extreme poverty and investments in the economy. The coming months will show whether he has that intention. At the same time some observers are worried about his immense popularity and the harsh, sometimes inflammatory and divisive rhetoric he used in the campaign, dividing society into “us” (those who supported the revolution)  and “them” (those who support the Republican Party, unspecified oligarchs and corrupt officials). So far Pashinyan’s political style has been that of a revolutionary. The coming months and years will show whether he has the qualities required for a good ruler.

Sources: Hetq, Irish times, The Guardian, RFERL