Voters across Armenia took part in the country’s 7th parliamentary election on Sunday, in what many observers described as the most important in Armenia’s modern history. The vote comes a year and a half after Arestructuring the country into a parliamentary republic.
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia, easily retained its position, winning nearly half the national vote and 55 seats. Oligarch, Gagik Tsarukyan’s party came in second with 30 seats, while the newly-formed liberal political alliance, YELQ had a surprisingly strong showing, with 9 seats. The Republicans are widely expected to form a governing coalition by adding their junior partner, the ARF’s 8 seats.
Despite well-documented evidence of vote-buying and voter intimidation in the weeks prior to the vote, both local and international observers have agreed that the voting process went on without any major irregularities typical of previous elections.
Building on the successful deployment of citizen observers in previous elections, civic activists and international monitoring groups worked to train thousands of observers to cover most of the 2000 election poll stations. They were joined by the OSCE’s team of election monitoring experts. This year, dozens of diaspora-Armenians travelled to their homeland to help ensure a smooth voting process. Among them were prominent Armenian celebrities the likes of Serj Tankian, Atom Egoyan and Arsinee Khanjian.
Both the United States and the European Union pledged to support a landmark election reform agreement between the opposition and the government by providing financial support, as well as electronic voting machines and live streaming cameras. Some reports of malfunctioning cameras were addressed in a statement by the EU representation in Armenia and quickly repaired. Some voting machines were also temporarily malfunctioning, including one which did not recognise President Serj Sargsyan’s fingerprint (despite repeated attempts). These glitches were attributed to technical error rather than ill intent.
Election day and results:
Of the 9 parties and blocs officially contesting the election, only 4 made it past the threshold: the Republican Party, the Tsarukyan Alliance, the YELQ bloc and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Of notable absence in the new parliament are former president Levon Ter-Petrossian’s Armenian National Congress, Arthur Baghdasaryan Rule of Law party Raffi Hovhannisian’s Heritage Party. The latter of which has been reduced to a shadow of its former prominence when Hovhannisian emerged as an unlikely challenger in the 2013 presidential election.
Free, but unfair election?
Splitting from a long Armenian political tradition of defeated candidates calling foul, the opposition did not contest the results. YELQ published a statement citing the tally as: “on the whole formed as a result of voting by the citizens who took part in the elections.”
This sentiment was echoed by the OSCE observers who witnessed very few major voting irregularities on election day. A spokesperson for EU commissioner Federica Mogherini pledged continued support for Armenia’s “democratically elected new Parliament and Government.” The Embassy of the United States in Yerevan, meanwhile, released a statement broadly praising the election process, noting that “voters were able to freely exercise their right to vote”. Some have attributed the smooth process to the presence of Batman as a registered election observer.