Dawn of a New Era

The snap parliamentary election in Armenia was held on December 9. This election was hailed as the first fair and transparent parliamentary election for the Republic of Armenia since its establishment 27 years ago. It was reported that the election was monitored by thousands of local observers and over 500 international observers and no major violations were reported.

According to Central Elections Commission’s (CEC) final report, the new parliament will have a total of 132 Members of Parliament (MP). My Step Tashink headed by acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan will have 88 MPs. (2/3 of the total). Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), headed by tycoon Gagig Tsarukyan, will have 26 MPs, and Bright Armenia Party, (BAP), will have 18 MPs, for a total of 44 MPs. (1/3 of the total). These percentages are legal requirements.

It is also encouraging to see half of the 88 MPs that belong to My Step Tashink were elected as the representatives of the 13 electoral districts and it seems it is a well-balanced representation as well. Here is the breakdown.

Yerevan has 4 electoral districts each has 3 representatives except district 4 which has 4 representatives for a total of 13 MPs. All the other 9 electoral/territorial districts are in the regions (Marz). Each has also 3 representatives except Ararat and Godayk districts which each have 4 representatives for a total of 29 MPs.

The reason I highlighted this list is that, usually, in most the proportional electoral systems there is only a national or central list that favors Party representation and accordingly the MPs are mainly accountable to Party leadership and not to the people who elected them.

The new Parliament has also more young people and fewer old authoritarian remnants of the old Soviet system. (The average age was reported to be around 35). It is also encouraging to see more younger women in this parliament as well.

This unprecedented victory was the fourth and the final stage of the peaceful transition of power from an authoritarian kleptocracy that has been in power for more than 20 years, to a populist Ժողվրդավառ and more democratic regime. This victory not only is a vote of confidence by the electorate but also, it does legitimize the whole process.

The process started last April with peaceful demonstrations demanding the resignation of the “strong man” President turned “super” Prime Minster, Serg Sargsyan. It succeeded beyond all expectations and the unthinkable happened, and the  “strong man”  resigned.

The second stage was the election of a new Prime Minister and forming of a new government which also succeeded when Nikol Pashinyan the leader of the popular movement called, the Velvet Revolution, was elected Prime Minister and formed a new government.

The third stage was to reform the electoral laws before going to a snap parliamentary election. It failed due to the fact that the proposed new electoral laws were defeated in the old Parliament with 1 vote, (62 for and 63 against) and thus, this election was held according to the old electoral laws.

The hopes of discredited Republican Party of Armenia, (RPA), and its so-called “junior partner” ARF/Tashnagtsutyun, who conspire to defeat the legislation in order to win more votes with the old electoral laws did not materialize. Both Parties could not even clear the required minimum 5% threshold to get in the parliament.  (RPA got 4.7% of the votes, and ARF/Tashnagtsutyun, 3.89% of the votes).

It may be fair to say the revolution is over and the harder work of governance just started. It is time to work hard to kick start the process of reforms and achieve tangible results on the issues that My Step Tashink promised in their all-inclusive campaign platform that was presented by the young deputy prime minister Tigran Avinyan at the start of their campaign. It was well prepared and well-delivered program. Now is the time to implement it.

The young leadership of My Step Tashink headed by acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with over 6 months of governing experience has passed its “training period” and it is time to start major reforms that will help improve the socio-economic condition of the citizens of Armenia.

Needless to say, the electoral reforms have to go on the “back burner” to be carried on just before the 5-year term of this parliament is over. But, the reform of the judiciary system, the pillar of a just society, must be on the “front burner” if I may say so.

Needless to say in order to be able to implement their proposals, the new government must strive to achieve great economic growth, start rebuilding the nation’s social institutions and the industry and stay focused.

In my previous Monologue dated Oct. 8, 2018, I wrote “Only a legitimate Parliament (as the true representative of the PEOPLE of Armenia), together with an equally legitimate Government (accountable to the legitimate Parliament), will have the mandate, and the power, to start the process of dismantling the “deep state”. With this electoral victory that mandate and power is well earned. It is time to deliver.

Are they up to the challenge? I think so. There is no turning back.  I am optimistic that they will be able to better govern the country and help keep the people’s hopes and aspirations alive for a long time to come, even way beyond the 5-year term of this parliament, and thus, turn this Velvet Revolution, the cornerstone, the role model, for the future generations to live up to.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian


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