Revolution and Democracy in Armenia

In this contribution, Edgar Brutyan, ALDE Internship, talks about political elections in Armenia and the new chapter of Armenian’s people story

2018 year is an important year for Armenians after the pacific “velvet” revolution, which brought democracy and faith into their political institutions.

On December 9th 2018, Armenia experienced its first experience of fully democratic parliamentary election. This election was more than just a simple ballot but a whole new hope for the population to get rid of the existing corrupt system and to face a free and democratic future. It was predicted that the leader of the Velvet revolution Nokol Pashinyan and his party would win the election, and indeed the party obtained 70.4% of the votes. The second party in the parliament with 8.3% was Prosperous Armenia, the party of Gagik Tsarukyan, a well-established oligarch. The third party in the parliament is Bright Armenia, a liberal and pro-European party led by Edmon Marukyan. The Republican party is the big loser of the election with just 4.7% of the votes, not only leaving the majority but being ousted completely.

Aleksander Pociej, Head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said at a meeting with reporters, that PACE has observed every election in Armenia since 1995. He said: “Despite the complex electoral system and reported instances of intimidation via social media, the recurring electoral irregularities which tainted many elections in the past were absent. It is up to Armenia’s elected representatives to launch legal reforms to consolidate the democratic process in the country.” Peter Osusky, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission said: “Democracy cannot proceed without trust, so I am pleased that broad public trust was the central characteristic of this election.”

Since the end of the Soviet Union, the smallest country of the Caucasus suffered from 27 years of post-transitional corrupted policies. The Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), who was using the power of corruption to achieve its goals, ruled the country. Corruption was everywhere: in the national institutions, in the health and the judicial systems etc. The RPA used corruption to be manipulate the outcome of the elections; busses were used to transport people and to force them to vote for the RPA or even in exchange of money. By 2017, 25.7% of the population lived below the poverty line due to oligarchs monopolizing the country’s economy.

The two parties that want to bring more openness, transparency and democracy in the country now compose the majority in Armenian parliament. They both want to bring freedom, enhance rule of law and promote civil rights. However, they will face many challenges, as everything needs to be rebuilt. Moving away from the former regime of the Republicans will not be an easy task. Another difficulty to face is Russia – how will they react to these pro-European, anti-oligarch parties ruling what they consider their vassal state? There is an important factor as well: Pahinyan. He has the support of a huge part of the population, we saw him uniting 300.000 people in 1 hour in the streets of Yerevan, and he is popular because of the great and democratic changes that he is bringing in the country. We need to hope he will not turn populist.

Armenia is starting a new chapter; and only time will tell if this leads to a happy ending, yet hopes are quite high.

Edgar Brutyan

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