Parliamentary elections in Armenia took place on 12.5.2007. 131 seats are distributed in the elections; 90 seats according to parties’ candidate lists and 41 in one-mandate districts. The minimum limit of votes for political parties to obtain seats in parliament is 5 percent and 7 percent for coalitions. 22 political parties and 1 coalition took part in the elections.
Almost 60 % of registered voters participated in the elections. Five parties have overcome the 5 percent limit: The Serge Sarkosian’s Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) received 32.8% of votes, The Flowering Armenia party of Gagig Carukian (14.7%), Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnakcutyun (ARFD) of Vagan Vahagn (12.7%), the party Orinac Erkir (OE) of Artur Bagdasarian (6.8%) and the party Heritage of Raffi Ovannisian (5.8%).
The 5 % limit was not overcome by the United Workers’ Party of Gurgen Arsenian (4.3%), National Unity of Artesh Gegemian (3.6%) and National Party of Armenia of Stepan Demirchian (2.7%), even though these parties had according to pre-electional polls more than 5% support of voters.
Three radical opposition parties: New Times of Aram Karapetian (3.3%), The Republic Party of Aram Sarkisian (1.7%) and the coalition Impeachment of Nikola Pashinian (1.2%) associating parties Democratic Homeland and Conservative Party, stayed deep below the 5% limit needed for political parties (or 7% limit needed for coalitions) to obtain seats in the parliament.
Local and foreign observers including representatives from CIS, OSCE, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights OSCE/ODIHR, European Parliament and Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly were overseeing the process of parliamentary elections in Armenia. The observers from CIS evaluate the elections positively and consider them democratic and legitimate. The observers from OSCE have noticed a progress in comparison with the year 2003 and according to one of the leaders of the delegation Tone Tinsgaard the elections correspond with international standards of democratic elections.
According to Leo Platvoet from Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly the process of elections was better than the last time, but he sees the reasons for shortcomings in the area of necessary change in Armenian political climate, increase of trustworthiness of political powers, improvement of the mechanism to impugn the process of elections, problems with vote counting and publishing election results. Acoording to him the vote counting was problematic in 20% of observed districts because of bad organization. In the same time Platvoe complimented the accepted steps leading to despatching shortcomings in the law concerned with elections and he expressed willingness to collaborate with non-governmental and governmental subjects in despatching the mentioned shortcomings. He emphasized that the elections passed without serious incidents although a few attempts of falsification were noted (1).
In the announcement of observers from CIS, OSCE, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights OSCE/ODIHR, European Parliament and Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly it is noted that overall the elections corresponded with international standards. Nevertheless the future participation of Armenia in European politics of the new neighborhood will depend upon these results.
The three radical opposition subjects New Times, Republic and coalition Impeachment summoned a public gathering on the 13.5.2007 with the goal to annul the results. The protest took place in the Square of Freedom in the center of Yerevan supported by few thousand people and it was also joined by the leaders of National Party of Armenia led by Stepan Demirchian. A member of coalition Impeachment, the chairman of National Association of Publishers in Armenia, Vahagn Khachatrian said during the gathering that the elections were marked by considerable number of forgeries and thus the results of elections cannot be accepted. The chief editor of Ajkakan Zhamanak newspaper and the leader of coalition Impeachment Nikol Pashinian during his speech said that during the elections there were mobile groups of people operating throughout Armenia who were proving their identity by newly issued identification cards with the names of dead people as well as people living abroad, who could not take part in voting. He said that it should be „approximately 400 000 votes, which were used to ensure the winning result of Republican Party of Armenia” (2).
The gathering followed after the joint proclamation of parties New Times, Republic and coalition Impeachment whose leaders declared that the pro-government subjects Republican Party of Armenia, Flowering Armenia, ARFD and United Workers’ Party (ZRS) used all tools and methods to forge the elections. The fact that the text of the proclamation was published instantly after the completion of voting indicates that the proclamation was not a reaction to current events, but a realization of an in advance prepared scenario. This statement is further supported by the fact that the United Workers’ Party is also mentioned in the proclamation, although it received only 4.3% of votes and did not get into parliament, despite the favourable results of sociological surveys.
The legitimacy of elections with regard to alleged forgeries was impugned also by Orinac Erkir party, which announced that it is going to challange the electoral results in court. OE had after the elections in 2003 created a coalition with Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnakcutyun and Republican Party of Armenia, but in May 2006 OE stepped out of the government coalition explaining this step as a result of disagreements in the questions of internal and foreign policy and in the question of further democratization. The reason for Orcinac Erkir’s leave from government coalition was mainly the pressure from other government subjects to ease the criticism of the program of privatization of national properties in years 2001 – 2003. Following OE’s leave from the government coalition several businessmen left the party and explained their leaving by their disagreement with the party’s leader Artur Bagdasarian’s approach. The party has also noted a fall in voters’ preferences from 12.49% inelections in 2003 to almost 7% in the recent elections.
The constitution court is going to handle the addressed declarations of complaints in case of forging the elections from political parties OE, New Times, Republic, and the coalition Impeachment. In regard of present post-electorial power distribution we can assume that the attempt to annul the results of elections made by parties New Times, Republic, and the coalition Impeachment joined by National Party of Armenia and relevant parliament party OE is not going to be successful. The government is going to be put together by Republican Party of Armenia which has the majority of parliament seats. Galust Saakian, the member of Council of Republican Party of Armenia and the chairman of its parliamentary club announced on 17.5.2007 that the party is not going to sign a coalition agreement because the party holds the majority of seats. He emphasized that RPA is ready to collaborate with all parliament and non-parliament parties. According to him specific political representatives and non-parliament parties, especially those that were close to the 5% minimum limit, will participate in creating the new government. In the same time he admitted that RPA is going to keep the majority of current ministerial posts in the new government.
The surrender of some ministerial posts to other political subjects is useful from the standpoint of RPA because it creates the distribution of political responsibility, ensures the acceptance of legislative regulations in National Assembly of Armenia even in case of constitutional laws or lower participation of RPA’s own members in voting, due to political agreements as well as the position and assumed tendencies in the sense of political isolation, when the pro-government and republican rhetoric is not advantageous for any political party in regard of the electorate. From the standpoint of electorate there are serious objections against the pro-government powers also in the position of Nagorno-Karabakh, because the Armenian diplomacy does not wish the Karabakhian side to participate in peace talks with Azerbaijan. Armenian and Karabakhian people suspect the Armenian government that it has made an agreement with Azerbaijan to withdraw its forces from Nagorno-Karabakh. According to OSCE representatives the situation has never been this close to solution before (3).
In the beginning of June 2007 RPA has sealed agreements of cooperation with ARFD and Flowering Armenia. It is questionable whether this step is advantageous for the Flowering Armenia because it is as well as the Republican Party of Armenia profiling itself as a pro-Russian political subject directed at partners in CIS and thus stands against a part of radical opposition. Nevertheless the Republican Party of Armenia under the lead of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Serge Sarkosian – anticipated and for RF also the most reasonable presidential candidate – executes politics which despite of the resemblances differs from from the politics of President Robert Kocharian supporting the Flowering Armenia. The mentioned dissociation of the politics of the President and Prime Minister is relevant also in relation to the upcoming presidential elections, in which Kocharian in regard of the maximum of two successive terms of office cannot enter. The negative aspect is also the influence of the decision on the ambitions of the leader of the party Gegik Carukian. But it is impossible to rule out the influence of President on Carukian in the direction of accepting participation in government, as the President has an interest in sustaining the status quo of the internal political course of the country.
According to the declaration of the leader of ARFD Vahagn Ovannisian from 16. 5. 2007 the party’s participation in governmant is going to have only a formal character even if the party were offered the same number of ministerial positions as it had in the last government. In the pre-electorial campaign ARFD was dissociating itself from the politics of RPA which was probably a little advantageous for the party in relation to its voters. The rejection to participate in the government would not represent an inconvenient step for ARFD, but again probably the pressure from President played an important role in it as well. The pressure from President can be demonstrated on the congratulation letter addressed to the winning party, in which Kocharian – unlike in the congratulation letters addressed to other parliamentary parties – expressed his hopes that ARFD will lead a constructive dialogue with other political subjects, although there were no doubts about ARFD’s constructivity in the recent years.
Serge Sarkisian was named Prime Minister on 7.6.2007. According to the newest information ARFD will keep the post of Minister of Education and Science, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Employment and Social Security. The Flowering Armenia is supposed to get the Ministry of Health and Environment. The rest is supposed to be distributed among the members of RPA which will most probably change the majority of present ministers. (4).
The forming of the government creates continuum in internal, foreign and security policy of Armenia, although the foundation of political arguments is the disagreement of opposition political parties with sustaining the current state. Problematic is the considerable heterogeneity of opposition and its goals as it is obvious that one of the common goals is the change in government power.
The creation of government and soothing of the protest activities in regard of the heterogeneity of goals and programs of radical opposition powers does not mean that the possibility of another „color” revolution in Armenia can be ruled out. From a part of the opposition sound cries markedly resembling the rhetorics of Ukrainian Orange Revolution leaders and its representatives have indispensable media influence. The key events will occur from February to March 2008 in the time when the presidential elections are going to take place. Until then proceedings between opposition powers concerning a common candidate will be in progress.
Serge Sarkisian present and most probably also the future Prime Minister; Vazgen Manukian the leader of National-Democratic Union and former Prime Minister; the leader of the party New Times Aram Karapetian; and the director and owner of media holding ALM Tigran Karapetian have already announced their candidatures. Manukunian expressed his belief that the opposition will come with one common candidate because many candidates are, in his opinion, not convinced about the usefulness of their candidature.
The success of the opposition depends on the fact whether it will be able to unite and come up with one candidate. The only sign pointing this way so far are Tigran Karapetian’s statements about his possible withdrawal of candidature. So it can be expected that after the protests against the results of elections to the National Assembly die away there will be again intensive proceedings and an increase in protest activities before the presidential elections in February – March 2008.