YEREVAN—Nikol Pashinyan led his My Step coalition to a historic landslide victory on Sunday night, bringing two decades of Republican Party majority to an abrupt end. With results coming in from just over 2,000 precincts across the country, the Central Election Committee (CEC) showed My Step with 70 percent of the vote, the most substantial majority in Armenia’s parliamentary history.
Two other parties will join My Step in parliament: business tycoon Gagik Tsarukyan’s Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), and the liberal Bright Armenia party with eight-percent and six-percent, respectively.
The Republican Party suffered its greatest electoral defeat ever, not only losing control of the house but with only 60 thousand votes, failing to pass the five-percent threshold for parliamentary representation. The Republican Party was quick to condemn the election as unfair. Vice President of the RPA Arpine Hovhannisyan claimed, “All the kinds of violations that were typical of previous elections are present during today’s election.” Hovhannisyan served as Justice Minister during the previous election, which she declared free and fair. The party has not formally challenged the election results officially, however.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) also lost all of its seats; the party gathered less than four-percent of the vote. Other parties including the newly-formed social-democratic “Citizen’s Choice” and the far-right Sasna Dzrer parties did not make the cut either.
At a late-night press conference shortly after the announcement of the results, Pashinyan declared, “The revolution is not over. This is only the first stage. The revolution will not be complete until all its goals are fulfilled: to turn Armenia into an economically developed country and a strong member of the international political family.”
The outgoing Republican Party seized on the seemingly modest turnout of 50 percent. Deputy Chairman Armen Ashotyan took to Facebook claiming, “This proves that the holding of the pre-term parliamentary elections in December was not a ‘popular demand’ but the result of Nikol Pashinyan’s personal political calculations and interests.” Last year’s parliamentary vote saw a voter turnout of 60 percent.
On Facebook Live, Pashinyan downplayed the lower turnout, arguing that voters weren’t bribed or coerced to the polling stations this year. Others have pointed to the fact that the elections list included those who had been living outside the country for decades while maintaining a local address, thus inflating the number of eligible voters.
This election process witnessed an energetic and competitive campaign period and a landmark televised debate. On voting day, eight international observation missions numbering 505 observers joined almost 18-thousand local observers belonging to 22 local organizations.
Monitors recorded much fewer violations than in previous elections, many of which involved technical issues. Incidentally, several election-related violations involved the Republican Party handing out bribes or printed voting instructions for elderly voters.
During a press conference on Monday, the European Union’s observation mission said the elections “were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms.” A similar conclusion was reached by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s observation mission.
At the polling stations, police officers stood watch while voters lined up to cast ballots. The crowd at precinct 9/21 on Yerevan’s Saryan Street was made up primarily younger voters. One woman told the Weekly, “This is my first time voting, the first time I felt it mattered.”
As the CEC wraps up its final seat allocation in the new parliament, Pashinyan is laying out his priorities to voters. “Our chief priority will be to bring about an ‘economic revolution’ that would significantly reduce poverty, create many jobs and thus raise living standards in the country.”