On October the second, there were widespread local elections in 377 communities in various parts of Armenia, but not much was reported about this election in the diaspora Armenian news outlets, either in print or online. A quick google search surprised me with the good news about a better electoral process without any major falsifications, that has been the case in the past elections be it either, local (Municipal), parliamentarian, or presidential.
Although it is reported that the governing Republican Party of Armenia was the winner in most of the communities,, in the cities of Գյումրի (Gyumri) and Վանաձոր (Vanatsor) the opposition made substantial gains. I hope this trend will further improve and become the norm for all future elections as well.
In Vanatsor (the third-largest city in Armenia) the five political parties that passed the 6% threshold to be eligible for a proportional representation in the local council, are listed as follows. The governing Republican Party of Armenia Հանրապետական, 14 899 votes – A relatively new Party called Bright Armenia Լուսավոր Հայաստան, 10 898 votes – A new alliance of few old Parties called Armenian Renaissance Վերածնունդ 5286 – Prosperous Armenia Բարգաւաճ Հայաստան – 2872 – ARF Դաշնակցութիւն 2522.
In this proportional voting system, the three opposition parties of Vanatsor, have 18 seats in the council against the governing party’ (and its junior partner ARF) 15 seats. Needless to say this will benefit not only the Vanatsor residents who will be better represented in the council but also help the emerging democracy of the Republic of Armenia in its quest for a better democratic electoral process.
In Gyumri, (the second-largest city in Armenia), there were almost similar results. But the governing Republican Party with its 14 987 and 17 seats has a one-seat majority against the three opposition’ 16 council seats. (ARF, a junior partner of the Republican Party with 2496 votes did not clear the 6% threshold to elect a council member). Unfortunately, the turnout of the eligible voters was low. In Vanatsor it was 42.7%, and in Gyumri even lower at 36.25%.
Maybe these successes will encourage the opposition Political Parties in Armenia to get better organized and contest the next parliamentary election due in April of 2017 and hopefully repeat some of these successes. Armenia desperately needs a credible opposition Party, or Parties, to hold the government accountable.
Fortunately, there is a young generation of 18 to the 35-year-old electorate that is free of the “old baggage”, and the subservient mentality, to follow the leadership of the establishment, as was the case during the Soviet times. The political parties, that can engage and win the support of this generation, stand a better chance to win the next election.
Another change, and hopefully for the better, was the appointment of a new Prime minister and a new government by the president of Armenia. Many “old guard” ministers were replaced and few were reshuffled. The most significant was the dismissal of the Minister of Defense that was replaced with a civilian administrator that had no prior experience in the administration of the ministry of defense.
Unfortunately, there are only two women in the new 18-member cabinet. This has been the case in all of the previous administrations since the independence of Armenia 25 years ago. It is about time this important issue is discussed in public both in Armenia and Diaspora and encourages more women to get involved in the politics of Armenia.
One of the first acts of the new government was the dismissal of the governor Մարզպետ of the Lori region Մարզ. The governor has been a controversial figure and in the past, some of his clan members were involved in violent confrontations with his opponents. Previously this governor himself has been dismissed and reappointed by the president of Armenia. Maybe this is not an impotent issue to write about, but the appointment process itself is.
All the ten regions have elected self-governing local governments. I wrote on a couple of them at the start of this monologue. If there is a need for a regional Governor Մարզպետ, it must be an elected office, with a fixed mandate, and be accountable to the electorate, rather than be appointed by the President, or the Prime Minister, and accountable to them.
It seems with the appointment of the new government the governing Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) is preparing for the Parliamentary election in April of 2017. Currently, RPA is the best-financed and best organized Political Party in Armenia and is best positioned to contest the next election. I hope this time around they will try to win without any major falsifications which have been the case in almost all the previous elections.
The best way to prove verify the legitimacy of the vote is for each participating Political Party to have their representatives in each of the 1997 polling stations to proof verify that, the ballot boxes are empty at the start of the voting process, and be there during the whole voting time, and especially when the ballot boxes are opened and the vote counted after the voting is over. This is a right granted to the participating Parties by the law, (in the old electoral law), and failing to do so, they have nobody to blame but themselves, for failing to exercise that right and thus forfeit their right to complain after the election is over.
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Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian