Pashinyan's first election - an indicator of new authoritarian regime - COMMENT

Pashinyan's first election - an indicator of new authoritarian regime - COMMENT
More than 50% of Yerevan residents boycotted the first election held during Pashinyan’s tenure

Baku. 24 September. REPORT.AZ/ Baku. 24 September. REPORT.AZ/ Early elections to the Yerevan Council of Elders have ended. Four blocs and 8 parties representing 12 political forces participated in the process. The total number of voters in Yerevan is 848,343 people with only 43.65 percent or 370,365 people participating in the voting

The Yerevan Council of Elders elects a city mayor. The political power, which gets the highest number of votes in the election, nominates its candidate for the post of the city mayor and the mayor is elected at the council meeting. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's "My Step" bloc won this political campaign.

According to the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Armenia, the voting results were as follows:

Of the twelve forces which ran in the election, the My Step bloc of political parties gathered the majority of votes with 81.05 percent (294,109 votes), the Prosperous Armenia Party came in second with 6.95 percent (25,219 votes), and the Luys (Light) bloc of political parties was third with 4.99 percent (18,112 votes).

According to the results of the poll, Hayk Marutyan who won the majority votes, becomes the Mayor of Yerevan. Official results of the elections will be announced on September 30. The first meeting of the Yerevan Council of Elders will be held 10 days following the announcement of the results. Thus, the new mayor will take over the office on October 10.

Who is Hayk Marutyan? He was born on December 18, 1976 in Yerevan. In 1997 he graduated from the State Engineering University. Through 1997-1998, he was in the military service of the National Security Service of the Republic of Armenia. In 2002, he established the Kargin Studio company and worked as an actor, screenwriter, and producer. He is also known as a comic in the country. Marutyan was one of the active participants of the May coup.

A few words about the violations recorded during the elections. The working group established by Armenia's ombudsman is investigating more than a thousand of violations perpetrated by the media and social networks.

Most of the violations were related to the obstacles created to hinder the monitoring of the election process by observers and journalists.

It was reported that during the pre-election campaign, the Yerevan prosecutor's office investigated complaints about corruption.

The forces participating in the election, the results of this campaign and the violations are grounds for some conclusions on how elections in Yerevan were held.

Almost all those who nominate their candidacies to be the head of the Armenian capital are representatives of the same political camp, the forces that have assisted the May Revolution in one way or another.

For example, the Dashnaktsutyun party has left the coalition they created with Serzh Sargsyan and joined Pashinyan’s supporters. Raffi Hovannisian did not agree with his loss to Sargsyan in the presidential elections in 2014, protested against the results of the election and even staged a hunger strike. The "My Step" with the Tsarukyan bloc made a show to flare up the pre-election situation in May. They spread different "biased" ideas about each other.

The fact that Tsarukyan’s bloc headed by the billionaire scored almost 11 times less than the representative of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also points out that there is a democracy game between the parties.

While the opposition representative participated in the elections held on May 14, 2017, ithe opposition was not represented in the recent elections.

This gives rise to doubts about the democratization of the election and the involvement of all the nominees in the process. In other words, the outcome of the election gives grounds to say that Pashinyan’s supporters or the forces that took part in the May coup held elections among themselves. Over 50% of Yerevan residents did not participate in the voting and silently boycotted the first election held during Nicol Pashinyan’s reign. This shows that there is no civil activism in the country and most importantly, no trust in Pashinyan's activities and his policy. Otherwise, the locals would have taken part in the election and support the My Step bloc. Nowadays, this support is out of the question.

Residents of the Armenian capital have not shown their active participation in the election process because they knew the candidate from the ruling Republican Party Taron Margaryan would ‘win’ the elections for the second time and only 345,226 people took part in the vote. Despite the loud speeches and promises during the ‘Revolution’, the voter turnout did not increase. 370,000 residents of Yerevan participated in the voting.

In the last year's elections, the Republican Party collected 71.25 percent of the vote. Representatives of the then opposition, Nikol Pashinyan's Yelk (Exit) faction received 21% and "Yerkir Tsirani” (Apricot Country) got 7.75%. Tsarukyan did not participate in this political campaign.

Hence, there is no significant difference between population’s confidence in the elections and in the political force that holds it. Undoubtedly, this can be a signal for Nikol Pashinyan. Because in spring next year Armenia will hold a larger political campaign - parliamentary elections. The Armenian Prime Minister said in New York that after his return to the country, he will start discussions with the heads of factions about dissolution of parliament.

It is possible to assume that the Republican Party considered as de facto opposition will be more active in the parliamentary elections (in fact, they are not oppositional). The speeches by Robert Kocharyan, who is considered one of their representatives, threatening to the Prime Minister give grounds for such thoughts.

In other words, the way to escape courtrooms for the former government representatives lies through active participation in political processes. Otherwise, Pashinyan will put all of them in jail as a "repressive force."

Of course, the interests of Russia that created and helps Armenia to survive should not be overlooked.

Therefore, the results of these elections can be considered as a warning to Moscow.

Another side - US seems to have overpowered Kremlin in this confrontation. The congratulatory letter sent by US President Donald Trump to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on the 27th anniversary of the independence of Armenia also had its influence on the elections: "In the upcoming months new opportunities will be opened for the American-Armenian relations.”

In addition, on the eve of the elections, Donald Trump nominated Lynne M. Tracy of Ohio to the post of the US Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Armenia. She currently works as the Senior Advisor to the State Department for Russia. Lynne Tracy is the US Ambassador to Moscow, Ashgabat and Astana.

As can be seen, Washington also pays special attention to Armenia because of Russia. By the way, the US Embassy to Yerevan is the second largest in the world after Washington's diplomatic mission in Baghdad. Covering 9 hectares of land, the embassy accounts for 500-600 employees. The embassy building was inaugurated on May 6, 2005.

Thus, Pashinyan’s victory in the early elections to the Council of the Elders of Yerevan was 0: 1 in the Moscow-Washington game on Armenia. The ball is now on Kremlin’s side. We'll see it in the next 8 months.

P.S. On the morning of elections, natural gas transportation from Armenia to Russia was suspended on September 24. Gasprom Armenia is engaged in the sale of this fuel. It was stated that no gas will be supplied to the country from September 24 to September 26. Georgia's Gas Distribution Company informed Gazprom Armenia about the issue. According to the report, transportation of blue fuel has been temporarily suspended due to repair and restoration works on the North Caucasus-South Caucasus gas pipeline. Now the question arises: Why was the gas supply cut off on the next day of elections? In any case it can be seen as a warning from the north. Meanwhile, winter is at the doorstep.

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