A New Political Landscape Emerges in Armenia

A woman at a polling station in Yerevan votes in Armenian parliamentary elections (Photo: Azatutyun)

Voters in Armenia cast ballots on Sunday to elect a new parliament nearly seven months after the Velvet Revolution, which changed the country’s leadership. Ballots cast are still being counted, but the Central Election Commission has reported that more than one third of those counted suggest a landslide win (roughly 70 percent of the vote) for the My Step Alliance, the party of Nikol Pashinyan, who became prime minister after leading the “people’s movement” back in April.

Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party is a distant second with 8 percent of the vote, followed by the Bright Armenia Party, allied to Pashinyan, who is slated to reach about 6 percent. The Republican Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation have both not yet reached 5 percent of the vote, the legal threshold required in order to secure representation in Armenia’s National Assembly. Thus, both parties are at risk of not having a member in Parliament.

For the Republican Party this is a resounding defeat, a very steep dramatic fall from governing to not even having a member in Parliament. A sad ending. The ARF paid a high price for its affiliation with the Republican Party. Also, it too heavily relied on its past history, running a campaign that not only did not reach young people, but did not have a message that resonated. The ARF will have to go through a deep soul-searching, possibly a change of leadership, and come up with a new strategy in the political arena of Armenia. Its track record of glorious achievements in the past, it appears, will not get votes in the present.

There are some further considerations, however, which require explanation. Voter turnout at these elections was low, at 48.6 percent, down from 61 percent reported in the last parliamentary elections held in April 2017. The reasons for such apathy and lack of participation are not yet clear, though Pashinyan suggested in a live Facebook transmission that the turnout may have been lower because voters are no longer being paid or bribed by the Republican Party.

This is an unfair reflection of the voting populace. Money could not have been the only factor. The weather might have influenced voters as it was rainy and snowy and polls had forecasted My Step Alliance was going to win the elections based on the outcome of Yerevan’s mayoral elections. Pashinyan and his party did have very popular support and the election was not focused on issues and challenges facing the nation, but rather, on slinging mud at one another.

The political landscape has completely changed, but yet, in some ways, it remains the same. After several elections in which Kocharian and Sarkissian had been elected Presidents, the Republican Party not too long ago had majority in the Parliament with no effective opposition countering them. Now, Pashinyan’s party will have absolute majority in the newly elected parliament with no meaningful opposition of any kind. Weak or no opposition does not bode well for a healthy democracy. The absence of counterweight and checks and balances leads to a usurping of power by the ruling majority.

Tsarukian called on the parties, saying, “If we want things to get better, we must be united.” Unless there is unity of common purpose and vision, the concern is that things might not get better. For the benefit of the whole Nation, it is crucial that this new government be successful in this.


Vart Adjemian

Vart K. Adjemian was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1943. He became an ARF member at the age of 16 and was a contributor to the Armenian daily newspaper “Houssaper.” Adjemian worked for a German company in Egypt that was awarded the project of saving the Abu Simbel Temples, as well as for the Australian Embassy in Cairo. In the early 1970’s, he moved first to Montreal, Canada, and then to the United States. Adjemian worked for the Continental Grain Company (New York) for 30 years, holding executive positions in the United States, Italy, Switzerland, and England; the last 8 years of his tenure was as executive vice president and chief operating officer. In 2005, he retired to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He is an avid supporter of the ANCA and a regular reader of the Armenian Weekly.

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  1. Vart’s commentary reflects a common frustration.
    There will never be a perfect political scene ,but we have to hope for the best with the clearly more positive attitudes of the people, an invigorated youth, hopefully more investment/jobs and a lesser corruption factor.
    Tsarukian’s call for unity has value but if his party had won (with such dominance) would he say the same to lesser finishers ? Doubt it.
    The ARF affiliation to Republican party (to seek more credibility ?)is a factor and also a sign of weakness. It is an indication of the long seen and accepted reality that ARF has not created a relevant platform and true grass roots engagement since Independence.
    ARF needs a re-definition; change of leadership will do nothing as long as organization thinking ,platform and mantra still defines itself in yesteryear–there is always a connect to 1918. Enough–when does ” we were, we did ” end ?
    It is insulting, riding the wave of history and today offering nothing that appeals to the people.
    The youth has a respect for ARF history but that is the past and the task now is a better today and tomorrow. ARF has not been capable of addressing that and it is now seen solely as a proud page in history.

  2. Of course the ARF controlled papers will express skepticism at the outcome of the results. The ARF is angry that their “glorious past achievements” didn’t get them votes and they are no longer part of the Parliament of their long dreamed of Free Armenia. Aside from running this and other fine Armenian newspapers, ARF hasn’t had a single “glorious” achievement since 1921 when they spearheaded the assassination of Talat. I will admit, their acheivements prior to that were indeed glorious.

    As to the writer’s concern that democracy is not healthy without opposition, hasn’t he ever heard of parties splitting? It is often the case in a revolution that when the old regime is corrupt, a widespread revolution is conducted without any specific political ideology other than overthrowing the previous regime and rooting out corruption. Pashinyan’s My Step party is not a party but a bloc of several parties. Those parties could easily split into, for example, fiscally liberal and fiscally conservative groups, or pro-Russian and pro-US groups. We will find out. But a country needs opposition between two parties who both have the people’s interest at heart. Not between a corrupt ruling party and opposition reformers.

    And it is ironic that the ARF is talking about need for an opposition. In my years growing up in the Diaspora in the United States as an active member of the Eastern Diocese and the ACYOA, I have often heard the ARF’s bogus claim that they are the “ONLY organization that has kept the Armenian culture and identity alive in the Diaspora”. (I’ve heard this claim as recently as this year). I have been a member of various non-ARF and arguably “opposition” organizations in the Diaspora. But the ARF apparently doesn’t really want competition and opposition; they won’t even admit that it exists when they do have it! We might have been led to think that the ARF would cool down its arrogant rhetoric once their primary goal of an independent Armenia was acheived and they could no longer claim their rivals as tools of the KGB, but apparently not.

  3. Calling all Tashnag Gamavors and Ungerners. Motherland’s calling you. Nikol’s ‘ serunt ‘ just scored victory, and they’re in charge of our homeland, and too damn busy dancing on the streets of Yerevan to the Tashnag tunes and doing kebabs. We need BAHAGS to keep our Motherland safe, can’t trust these BBQ loving generation. Please, volunteer to the nearest Tashnag headquarters near you.

  4. Time to unite and support Pashinyan’s party. He needs an opportunity to show what he’s capable of and people have supported him. Let’s focus on what’s right for the country and forget political alignment for the time being.

  5. David,” Time to unite and support Pashinyan’s party”.
    Are you kidding me? This is that same Pashinyan who motivated, instigated and encouraged the protesters to arm themselves to counter attack the law enforcement back in March 1 2008. The same,ignorant,arrogant Pashinyan went into hiding for two years afterwards. This is that same incompetent Pashinyan who just recently said, while campaigning , ” Judgment day has come- heads will fly, laid on asphalt, will be hit to the walls “. (Referencing about the opposition members). He sounds just like ISIS. Forget about it.

  6. If you viva-la-revoluciónaries ever woke up one day and finally realized that Chatlax Nikol’s regime is primarily interested in promoting Globalist/Western agendas inside Armenia (brotherhood with Turks ,and Azeris, open borders, diversity, liberalism, minority rights, IMF loans, GMOs, homosexual propaganda, more NGOs, more Anglo-American pop culture, more social engineering programs, etc), will you still support it or wish it success? Should we see an Armenia that is enslaved by Globalist and Anglo-American-Jewish interests as a mission accomplished or a success story? If so, you must have also wished success to Levon’s disastrous regime in the 1990s.

    Armenia has been one step away from becoming a failed state or a lost state all these years due to what Levon and his cohorts setup in the early 1990s. You mindless Nikolakans need to wake Wake up. Nikol is Levon 2.0. Nikol is Levon by other means. Nikol was put into power not by the sheeple but by supranational interests. He, as the “people’s choice” will be expected to settle the Artsakh dispute through major land concessions. Next few years has the potential to cause more harm to Armenia than what was done in the previous 20 years under the “Karabakh Clan”. So, no, I will NOT wish our Globalist/Western financed regime in Yerevan any success… because doing so would be wishing defeat for my homeland.

  7. Pashinyan may have been setting up the stepping stones for land concessions. According to Zaruhi Postanjyan, the leader of Yergir Dzirani, the Azeri forces have managed to advance 1500 feet closer to Armenia’s front from Nakhijevan and Pashinyan’s incompetent government has done nothing to protect the borders. She thinks Nikol has made agreements with the adversaries to give up land. All suspicions of this traitor so far is coming to bear its fruit, this Sharlatan will pay dearly if one inch of liberated lands are given up to the Azeris.

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