The two opposition alliances elected to the National Assembly during the recent snap election may not take up their mandates in parliament.
The Civil Contract Party triumphed with 53.92-percent of the vote in the election this past Sunday, renewing its parliamentary majority and securing 71 out of 105 seats in the National Assembly. Following the announcement of the election results, the Armenia Alliance, which came in at distant second with 21.4-percent of the vote, declared that it will challenge the outcome in the Constitutional Court, based on suspicions of a “systematic and pre-planned falsification of the election results.”
While the Armenia Alliance has yet to decide on its participation in the National Assembly, former president and party leader Robert Kocharyan hinted his support of taking up the mandates during a post-election press conference on June 22. “Parliamentary levers will allow us to work much more actively in other directions,” he said. “Our struggle will become much more intense.” If the alliance accepts its 27 seats, he might cede his seat as he considers himself “a man of the executive branch.”
Kocharyan acknowledged that the election results were “unexpected” for the alliance, which includes the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the Resurgent Armenia party. He speculated that people voted to prevent the return of the previous regimes to power.
The Civil Contract Party particularly received a high percentage of the vote in rural and border communities. In the southernmost region of Syunik, where the border crisis with Azerbaijan is ongoing, Pashinyan won 53.5-percent of the vote against Kocharyan’s 27.5-percent. Kocharyan upheld that if the campaign period were longer, he would have had the chance to host more town hall meetings with voters in rural regions and increase his rural vote.
Pashinyan advanced a message of unity during a victory rally on Monday, calling on his political opponents to join him in ending the “unnecessary aggression and feuds” that characterized the polarizing election cycle. For the past two days, Pashinyan has been hosting meetings with representatives from extra-parliamentary forces.
Nonetheless during the rally Pashinyan revived the imagery of the “steel mandate” that he adopted during his campaign, vowing to employ the mandate to “establish a dictatorship of justice and law in Armenia.” Pashinyan had threatened to wage “political vendettas” against opponents of the 2018 Velvet Revolution that swept him to power and politicians who have called for his resignation since the end of the Artsakh War in November 2020.
Kocharyan scoffed at Pashinyan’s appeal to unity in light of his confrontational rhetoric. “If they carry on with the same style, the same vendettas and keep up the internal political tensions, then I have no doubts that Armenia will face yet another pre-term election, and it will not take long,” he warned on Tuesday.
The I Have Honor Alliance, which came in third place in the election with 5.23-percent of the vote, is considering joining the Armenia Alliance in challenging the election results in court. The alliance, consisting of former president Serge Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia and Artur Vanetsyan’s Homeland Party, failed to meet the seven percent electoral threshold necessary for alliances to enter the National Assembly. However, since the Armenian Constitution requires the representation of at least three political parties in parliament, the I Have Honor Alliance can participate with seven seats.
“Right now we are collecting [evidence of] all violations that occurred during the elections and considering appealing to the Constitutional Court with other forces,” Vanetsyan, former head of the National Security Service, said during a press conference on Wednesday. “Only after the Constitutional Court’s decision will we make a decision on whether or not we accept the election results.”
If the alliance decides to take up its mandates, Vanetsyan, who was the head of the alliance’s candidate list, will accept his seat in the National Assembly.
A total of 22 political parties and four political alliances participated in the historic snap parliamentary elections, which were organized to end Armenia’s ongoing political crisis in the aftermath of the war. Besides the Civil Contract Party, the Armenia Alliance and the I Have Honor Alliance, none of the other political groupings received enough votes to participate in the distribution of mandates in parliament.
As the election cycle draws to a close in Armenia, a political crisis has erupted in Artsakh, where citizens have been holding demonstrations since Monday to call for the resignation of President Arayik Harutyunyan. These demands surfaced after Harutyunyan visited Pashinyan’s campaign headquarters on election day and subsequently congratulated him on his electoral success.
Right after the President’s rally another rally has started demanding Harutyunyan’s resignation and new elections in #Karabakh.
The same place and almost the same people. pic.twitter.com/LhIZM62kKH
— Anush Ghavalyan (@aghavalyan) June 22, 2021
“During and after the war Arayik Harutyunyan betrayed us,” protest participant Davit Minasyan told Hetq. “We are nonpartisan. As friends we decided to gather [in Renaissance Square], to raise our voices in protest. We expect that more people will join us and force Arayik Harutyunyan to resign.”
Harutyunyan hosted a rally in Stepanakert on Tuesday to address the accusations of treachery leveled against him. “It would be foolish to assume that the current situation gives me pleasure or that I am personally interested in continuing to work and cling to my chair,” he said regarding his justification for refusing to resign. “I simply feel responsible to the people and future generations, so responsible that I will not destroy our statehood through an emotional and short-sighted escape and leave the citizens, including those who demand my resignation, under its ruins.”
Harutyunyan upheld that the heads of the two Armenian republics are obliged to maintain good relations, regardless of who comes to power in Yerevan or Stepanakert. He noted that he has maintained “political neutrality” throughout the campaign and that, besides Pashinyan, he also met with Gagik Tsarukyan, Hrant Bagratyan, Edmon Marukyan, Aram Sargsyan, Samvel Babayan and others.
In response to rumors regarding why the presidential residence was not shelled during the 44-day war, Harutyunyan countered that the residence had been empty because he had always been at the frontline, at the most dangerous sections of fighting.