The Parliamentary elections in Armenia were held on April 2 and the general consensus by the foreign observers and the Central Election Commission (CEC) was that these elections compared to previous ones were more transparent and fair.
The two major complaints were behind the scene vote-buying occurrences, and Republican Party utilized its authority as the current government to influence the government employees to vote in its favor. So did also some private companies as well.
At least two major problems that previously were considered the most contagious issues, the ballot box stuffing, and multiple voting, were significantly reduced due to more proxies and observers at the polling stations and the installation of cameras in the majority of the polling stations.
It took CEC seven days to calculate the results of “one of the most complicated calculating systems” of a “thickest piece of electoral law” that a United Nations, (UNDP) electoral system expert said, “he has ever seen”. Well, Armenians pride themselves on being first in many things, is this intended to be another one?. (Can’t help but be a bit sarcastic).
CEC’s final report released on April 9th is as follows.
Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) with approx. 49% of the vote will have 58 Members of Parliament (MP) including 3 minority MPs. (1 Yezidi, 1 Assyrian 1 Kurdish)
Prosperous Armenia with approx. 27% of the vote will have 31 MPs including 1 Russian as a minority.
YELK alliance with approx. 8% of the votes will have 9 MPs.
ARF Dashnagtsutyun (ARF) with approx. 6% of the vote will have 7 MPs
RPA has been in power for almost twenty years and with such a majority will continue to dominate the politics of Armenia for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, there is no credible opposition to hold the RPA-led conservative government accountable or at least be vocal about the social issues that were ignored during the election, or lip service paid to it. There were no specific proposals to improve the health care system and make it more accessible for the public at large, or proposals to improve the lives of the disadvantaged citizens of Armenia, etc.
Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) basically is a rich men’ club headed by Tycoon Gagig Dsarugyan. It is as conservative as RPA and well connected to the oligarchic government led by RPA and cannot be considered to be an opposition.
ARF which claims to be a Socialist Party and prides itself to be part of the anachronistic Socialist International, in reality, and in practice Բանիւ եւ գործով has been a supporter of the RPA led conservative government as well.
Moreover, as an unnecessary “junior partner” (maybe it might be more appropriate to call it a “subservient partner”) of the RPA led government, ARF is definitely not in any position to become critical of the conservative agenda of the government that is already talking about privatizing 41 government-owned companies.
Need I say who will end up owning these privatized companies?. If the past is of any indication, it will be none other than the Russian-controlled Armenian monopolist oligarchs who not only own the vast majority of Armenia but also “own” the government as well.
Maybe I should mention also that both PAP and ARF declined to participate in the Yerevan Municipal elections against RPA which is no more than tacit support of RPA. (Elections are scheduled on May 14).
Here maybe it is important to mention that, Yerevan Municipality’s economy is more than the rest of the whole of Armenia and sometimes the Republic of Armenia is sarcastically referred to as the Republic of Yerevan. For a Political Party not contesting this important election is a “cop-out” to say the least.
That leaves only the YELK alliance with 9 members in the Parliament that were brave enough to challenge RPA in Yerevan’s Municipal elections and thus become the only opposition party.
YELK is an alliance of three Parties that could be more effective if they merge and form a “left-leaning” Liberal Party that Armenia desperately needs to counter-balance the RPA and its conservative ideology.
At this stage, YELK could be only a vocal opposition to articulate the socio-economic needs of the citizens of Armenia. If it does so consistently, and factually, and also highlights the failure of the government to keep their electoral promises to the point of embarrassing them, it stands a good chance to grow and become a credible opposition.
To become a credible opposition it will be also necessary to factually expose the corruption and plundering of Armenia’s wealth and natural resources, especially in the mining industry. If they do so, again consistently, they stand a good chance not only to grow and become a credible opposition, but also, to become an alternative to the conservative and oligarchic rule of RPA and thus give the citizens and the electorate of Armenia, a choice, and hope, that change is possible.
Moreover, YELK needs leadership that really believes that Armenia is the PEOPLE, the citizens of Armenia, and as such, make their socio-economic improvement the main policy of the Party both by words and deeds. Բանիւ եւ գործով.
This will help develop a sense of belonging among the people living in Armenia, which needless to say, is the best security that the country could ever have.
Will YELK leadership be able to rise to the occasion?. Let us hope so.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian.