Pashinyan declares victory in snap elections

By Armenian Weekly | Wednesday, 23 June 2021

The political party led by Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan received the most votes after Sunday’s post-war, snap parliamentary elections.

Armenia’s Central Electoral Commission reports that Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party won by a wide marginalmost 54-percent of the votewhile the Armenia Alliance, led by former president Robert Kocharyan, received the endorsement of just over 21-percent of voters. Election officials say just over 50-percent of eligible voters were absent from the voting process. A record total of 22 political parties and four alliances participated in Sunday’s elections, which were triggered in late April upon Pashinyan’s resignation and his agreement with opposition parliamentary factions to stage early elections amid the ongoing political crisis following Armenia’s loss in the 2020 Artsakh War.

It is expected that the Civil Contract Party will maintain its parliamentary majority with 71 out of 105 seats in the National Assembly. Armenia Alliance will likely receive 27 seats, and the I Have Honor Alliance, which earned just over five percent of the vote, seven seats.

“I call on all of those structures and segments with whom we have had disagreements and conflicts. We extend to you our hand of unity, emphasizing that we cannot place under doubt the responsibility we have undertaken in front of the people to employ the steel mandate and establish a dictatorship of justice and the law in Armenia,” Pashinyan declared during a victory rally in Republic Square on Monday evening. The rally ended with the presentation of a plaque to Pashinyan representing the symbolic “steel mandate” to rule.

The Armenia Alliance has announced that it will challenge the election results in the Constitutional Court due to suspicions of a “systematic and pre-planned falsification of the election results.” Based on information gathered from pre-election headquarters and observations on election day, the Armenia Alliance reported the utilization of administrative resources by the government, the direction of army votes in favor of the government, voter intimidation and counts of electoral fraud and bribery.

“The results are in conflict with various manifestations of public life that we have witnessed over the past eight months, with the results of public opinion polls, including the ones conducted by international organizations and, finally, with simple common sense,” read a statement by the Armenia Alliance. “The large campaign rallies of the opposition, the small number of people attending gatherings organized by the ruling power and the crisis of confidence signaled a completely different mood in the country.”

In spite of these allegations, international and domestic election observers praised the election as competitive, trustworthy and well-organized. “However, they were characterized by intense polarization and marred by increasingly inflammatory rhetoric among key contestants,” said Kari Henriksen, head of the delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, during a post-election press conference hosted by the international observation mission. The joint mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) deployed 353 observers from 37 countries to more than half of the polling stations throughout the country and oversaw the vote tabulations.

George Katrougalos, head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, noted some “minor technical irregularities in some poll stations, some overcrowding, no possibility in some of them for people with disabilities to have access.” These problems, however, “did not in any case put into question regarding the respect of the democratic and constitutional order.”

“Candidates could campaign freely throughout the election process, fundamental rights and freedoms were generally respected, and voters were provided with a broad range of options, leading to a competitive election,” concluded Eoghan Murphy, head of the delegation from the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

The “Akanates” observation mission, which includes the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, the Law Development and Protection Foundation and the Asparez Journalists’ Club NGO, concurred that the election process was free of widespread gross violations. During a post-election press conference, the deputy director of the Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center Sona Ayvazyan noted “small tensions in several polling places” due to the presence of unauthorized people from several different political forces who attempted to surveil or direct the voting process. The most common violation published by the mission was the attempt to control or influence voters. The mission also recorded cases in which the number of agents from a political party or alliance present at a polling station exceeded the number permitted by law and in which agents stood outside polling stations with voter lists to check if a citizen voted for a particular candidate.

The Early Election Working Group of the Prosecutor General’s Office published a summary of violations reported to the office on the day of the election. The office received 319 such notices, 68 of which were provided by the press, 127 by individuals, 17 by social media users and 107 by the police. Most of these cases regarded voting for more than one person or more than once, obstruction of the right to vote and electoral bribes. The Prosecutor General’s Office is opening preliminary investigations into these crimes.