Op-ed: will Armenia's new parliament consolidate or destabilize the country?
A new parliament has been elected in Armenia, but one is yet to see what implications the results of early elections will have and how events will continue to develop in the future. The pre-election race could essentially be described as a struggle between the former and the new authorities, as all of Armenia’s former president and acting prime ministers participated in it.
The new parliament will be formed as follows:
- Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party,
- Ex-President Robert Kocharian’s Hayastan bloc
- I have the Honor bloc, which includes the party of another former president, Serzh Sargsyan.
Bipolar elections all other participants of the electoral race in the shadows. 22 other political forces, including the party of the first president of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan, failed to cross the required threshold.
Experts’ opinions on the significance of the past elections and how the situation may develop in the future.
- Analysis: what are the implications of Pashinyan’s victory in the snap parliamentary elections?
- Will upcoming elections in Armenia just be a repeat of the past?
- What is behind Iran’s involvement in the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani border crisis
Alexander Iskandaryan, political scientist, director of the Caucasus Institute
Rebirth of Pashinyan’s legitimacy
The results of the past elections signify a restart of the bureaucratic legitimacy of the Pashinyan government, which it was striving for. After the defeat in the second Karabakh war, Nikol Pashinyan’s former legitimacy was faltering.
Some sociological polls showed that the elections should be held as soon as possible, while some social legitimacy is still preserved, which Pashinyan took advantage of.
After the war, the opposition made several attempts to change the government. At first, about 17 parties took on this mission, then the Movement for the Salvation of the Motherland. Later, senior officers organized a riot, and President Armen Sargsyan himself proposed a soft transition.
All these attempts were unsuccessful, and then the authorities and the opposition agreed to dissolve the parliament and call new elections.
To some extent, Robert Kocharian managed to concentrate the anti-rating of Nikol Pashinyan on himself. He created anti-Nikol out of himself, turning into the personification of protest and using the same technology that Pashinyan used during the revolution and elections of 2018, when he made himself into the living image of anti-Serzh Sargsyan, thanks to which he removed him and took over his post.
Robert Kocharian’s problem was that the large number of people who were against Nikol Pashinyanbut were not ready to vote for him.
Some of these people did not go to the election at all, others for minority parties, thus giving their votes to Pashinyan.
Armenia faces tough period
More shocks are expected both in domestic political life and in foreign policy.
In the short term, rallies, protests and similar turbulences may erupt in the country, but it is difficult to say how significant and long they will be.
At some point, this confrontation may go from the street to parliament, because the situation has changed, and only formally the current convocation will be similar to the previous parliamentary composition. In reality, the configuration will be different, thanks to the opposition blocs “Hayastan” and “I Have the Honor”. So Pashinyan’s “Civil Contract” will no longer feel the same.
There is no doubt that outside pressure on Armenia which has been going on for several months will continue. Moreover, it will be consolidated – not only from Azerbaijan and Armenia does not have many resources to resist these pressures.
In such conditions, the question is not whether Armenia will succumb to this pressure, but what it will be able to bargain for and how. But, again, here too Armenia has few resources to do it.
Unfortunately, Armenia will be forced to make some concessions and these concessions will concern Armenia itself.
The paradigm of the discourse of recent months within Armenia, which arose as a result of the actions of Azerbaijan, has been changed. We are already defending the Syunik region [he advance of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces deep into the territory of Armenia on May 12, 2021], the sovereign territory of Armenia, not Artsakh, we are already talking about the border of Armenia, not the Nagorno-Karabak.
Hakob Badalyan, political commentator
Probing public sentiment
The election results reflect the objective picture in Armenia in terms of public sentiments and the balance of political forces, and this objective picture may be liked by some, but not the others.
In fact, this is why early elections were needed – to reveal public sentiments, on the basis of which it will become possible to act in one way or another.
Another thing is who and how is going to come to terms with this picture, and if not, then what actions are they ready to take.
I think the opposition has the opportunity to work with society to change the situation, but the work can be hard and long-term. It is difficult to say to what extent these forces themselves are ready for such work.
The statement of Robert Kocharian’s Hayastan bloc on “non-recognition of the election results until doubts are dispelled”, was most likely made in order to gain time. Apparently, the bloc wants to understand how to proceed.
I don’t think the election results were unexpected for them. Perhaps the only result unexpected for them was that Pashinyan won 50%+ of the vote.
Perhaps there were people from functionaries in Robert Kocharyan’s team, who assured him that at least 30-40% would be in their pockets, and Pashinyan did not even have 30% of the votes.
There were such circles in Russia as well. For example, a few hours before the elections, journalist Margarita Simonyan published a poll in RIA-Novosti, where it was said that 30% would vote for Kocharyan and only 20% for Pashinyan. These false polls gave the Kocharian team the confidence to win.
Now the ex-president is faced with a dilemma of whether to accept the election results or challenge them and, should he choose to dispute them, must he do it via if the judicial system or protests.
Obviously, there were no serious violations during the elections that could affect the voting results. From this point of view, Pashinyan’s position will be more solid in court.
Therefore, if in these post-election months Kocharyan cannot succeed in organizing large-scale protests, it will then be even more difficult for him to fight Pashinyan.
I think the best option for him is to accept the results of the vote and move on to work.
How to withstand external pressures
Hard times await Armenia. This comes from both the post-war situation and geopolitical realities.
A very hard work awaits us, and any political force taken separately will not be able to carry this burden on its own shoulders. Regional risks are too great.
Accordingly, it is necessary to follow the path of political consolidation, and consolidation means not leading the country to destabilization, thereby creating favorable conditions for pressure on Armenia from the outside.
The political struggle must be kept in a meaningful direction in order to increase the flexibility of Armenia. In the event of destabilization within the country, it will not be difficult to achieve anti-Armenian decisions by pressure on Pashinyan from the outside. It is necessary to create a strong political field in Armenia in order to suppress any processes against it.