Armenian leader’s party wins early vote despite defeat in war
YREVAN, Armenia (AP) – Results released on Monday showed that the party of acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan won the snap parliamentary elections he called to quell anger over a peace deal he signed with Azerbaijan.
With all constituencies counted, Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party won 53.9% of the vote. A bloc led by former president Robert Kocharyan was far behind at around 21%, the electoral commission said on Monday.
Pashinyan called early elections after months of protests demanding his resignation over the peace deal he signed to end six weeks of fighting with Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The deal, denounced by protesters as a betrayal of national interests, saw Azerbaijan regain control of large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter of a century.
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The results of Sunday’s vote, however, indicate that Pashinyan, a 46-year-old former journalist who came to power after leading large street protests in 2018 that toppled his predecessor, continued to enjoy broad support despite the humiliating defeat, with fewer Armenians. ready to vote for those who ruled the country before him.
“It is much less of an endorsement of Pashinyan, but much more of a refusal of the Armenians to revert to the old authoritarian regime of the past,” Richard Giragosian, director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center, told The Associated Press. , adding that Kocharyan, Pashinyan’s main challenger, underestimated the “power and attractiveness” of the acting prime minister.
Nagorno-Karabakh is located in Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Yerevan government since the end of a separatist war in 1994, leaving the region and significant surrounding territory in Armenian hands.
Hostilities broke out in late September 2020, and the Azerbaijani army sank deep into Nagorno-Karabakh and neighboring areas during six weeks of fighting involving heavy artillery and drones that killed more than 6,000 people. .
Pashinyan defended the deal as a painful but necessary measure that prevented Azerbaijan from invading the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.
After calling the elections, he stepped down as prime minister as required by law to allow voting, but remained the leader of the country as interim prime minister.
Sunday’s poll involved 21 political parties and four electoral blocs. Despite strong emotions over the defeat of the war and calls for Pashinyan’s resignation, turnout was lukewarm – only 49% of eligible voters voted.
A bloc affiliated with another former president, Serge Sarkissian, came in third position with 5.2%, and another party with nearly 4%. Blocks need 7% to enter Parliament and parties need 5%. However, Armenian laws allow a third-ranked party or bloc to gain seats if only two political forces cross the threshold to enter parliament.
Pashinyan’s party showed a strong lead at the start of the count, and the interim prime minister claimed victory hours before all constituencies were counted.
“We have overcome these difficult times, and now it is time to stand up and move on,” Pashinyan said in a televised address at party headquarters.
The Armenian Alliance led by its main opponent Kocharian refused to accept the results of the vote and promised to challenge them in the Constitutional Court. “We have legitimate reasons to maintain that the official election results do not represent the real situation,” the bloc said in a statement. “According to our observations and information from local headquarters, many violations took place well before election day. “
Allegations in the statement included the use of administrative resources and efforts to intimidate voters, power outages in several parts of the country during the counting of votes, a “directed vote” in the military and suspicions of manipulation. results.
After the publication of the results of all constituencies by the Armenian Election Commission, Pashinyan tweeted that “in the newly elected parliament, the civil contract party will have a constitutional majority”, with at least 71 out of 105 seats, “and will form a government. led by me. “
In Russia – Armenia’s main ally – Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Pashinyan had won a “convincing victory”.
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The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement that the elections were “competitive and generally well run within a short period of time.” OSCE observers noted that they were “characterized by intense polarization and marred by increasingly inflammatory rhetoric among leading candidates”, but assessed election day and the vote count “globally”.
The results of the vote did not trigger any immediate protest, and Giragosian from the Center for Area Studies said it could prove a challenge for the opposition to mobilize a significant number of protesters at this point: “People are resigned. , but also happy that the election is over, and they want to move on, ”he said.