First violations detected as election campaign starts in Armenia
The pre-election campaign in Armenia has officially been launched for the early parliamentary elections scheduled for June 20, although the informal campaign has long been in full motion. In all major cities of Armenia, billboards of various political forces have appeared, and the party leaders are already traveling around the country, meet the voters, and criticize their opponents.
Unlike any elections before, the June 20 elections will see the participation of all of Armenia’s former presidents as well as the current acting prime minister. The main struggle, according to polls, will unfold between ex-President Robert Kocharian and Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power after the Velvet Revolution of 2018.
In a short period of time, the former president managed to practically equalize his rating with those of the ruling faction, although the current acting PM has gotten the highest results in all of the previous polls.
Experts believe that right now Nikol Pashinyan has already lost his winning standing as a “catastrophic scenario” has unfolded for an ambitious politician.
On the very first day of the election campaign, the first violation of the electoral code was registered. It was admitted by the Prosperous Armenia party, whose leader is a prominent businessman Gagik Tsarukyan.
The Central Election Commission issued an appeal to all participants in the pre-election race and voters to comply with the requirements of the law. President Armen Sargsyan called on the political forces participating in the elections not to aggravate the political crisis in the country.
The election campaign will last until June 18.
- Will upcoming elections in Armenia just be a repeat of the past?
- Op-ed: Why Azerbaijan risked invading Armenian territory
Participants of the elections and the balance of power
All leaders of independent Armenia, current and former, will participate in these elections:
- first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan tops the list of the Armenian National Congress party;
- second president Robert Kocharian is number one in the lists of the Hayastan bloc (Armenia);
- the third president, Serzh Sargsyan, is not on the party lists, but the Republican Party of Armenia, of which he is the leader, participates in the elections within I Have the Honor” bloc, and Sargsyan himself actively participates in the campaign;
- acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is a candidate for the post of prime minister from his Civil Contract party.
Parliament plays a special role in Armenia, as in 2017 the country switched from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary form of government. Thus, the political force that wins the majority of votes in the upcoming elections will also be able to form the government. Therefore, in the party lists of all political forces, their candidate for the post of prime minister is presented first.
Results of the latest sociological survey of Marketing Professional Group, a partner of Gallup International, were published on June 5.
According to the recent polls, if the elections were held last weekend:
- 22.4% of respondents would vote for Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party;
- 20.6% – for the Hayastan bloc, headed by ex-president Robert Kocharian;
- 4.2% – for the “Prosperous Armenia” party of the oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan;
- 3.9% – for the “I Have the Honor” bloc, which is backed by former President Serzh Sargsyan and headed by the former head of the National Security Service Artur Vanetsyan,
- 2.9% – for the Enlightened Armenia party led by Edmond Marukyan. This party is now one of the opposition forces represented in parliament.
According to the poll findings, over the past week, Robert Kocharian’s bloc has gained an additional 3%, while Pashinyan’s party lost 0.5%.
Compared to February, the rating of the Civil Contract has decreased by almost 11% percent.
Pashinyan’s party is gaining more votes in the regions of the country, while the Hayastan bloc is gaining more votes in the capital.
55.3% of the poll respondents said that they would definitely participate in the elections, and 20.7% said that they categorically would not.
On the very first day of the pre-election campaign, the Election Control Committee recorded a violation committed by the Prosperous Armenia Party.
The committee said that in various public places of the Ararat region, voters noticed the following announcement:
“By the order of the leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party Gagik Tsarukyan, from June 6 this year, representatives of the Masis Brandy and Wine Factory will visit all villages of the Artashat region and sign contracts for the purchase of grapes on the spot. Please do not bother to conclude any contracts with the company anymore. PAP Office”.
This was registered as a violation, since, according to the electoral code of Armenia, political forces participating in elections are prohibited during campaigning to “give (promise) money, food, securities, goods or provide (promise) services to voters personally, on their behalf or in any other way”.
President urged election candidates not to aggravate the political crisis
President of Armenia Armen Sargsyan’s statement says that the early parliamentary elections are being held during a difficult period in the country:
“I call on all political forces not to aggravate the crisis with their words and behavior, not to go beyond the boundaries of morality, not to use dishonest propaganda methods, and to remain loyal to national values”.
The president called on voters to actively participate in the elections as they would be the ones choosing the country’s future.
For the first time since the Velvet Revolution, a situation has emerged when Nikol Pashinyan may lose the election, political scientist Hrant Mikaelyan believes:
“Pashinyan’s influence has been reduced to a minimum, and if such trends continue, the electoral subjects will become equal in the very near future, and Kocharyan may become the winner of the elections, as the likelihood of this is already quite high”.
The expert expects continued growth of support for Kocharyan and a fall in Pashinyan’s rating:
“I must admit, I did not expect such a rapid [rise] in Kocharyan’s rating and the strength associated with him. The work of the team is obvious […]. But an extrapolation of the existing trends shows a high probability of a victory for Kocharian, who is likely to gain an advantage over Pashinyan by about 5-9% of the vote. It should be borne in mind that the continuation of this trend is not at all guaranteed […] and changes may occur during the pre-election campaign”.