Armenia’s ‘People’s PM’ Nikol Pashinian is set to move for snap parliamentary elections.
Ex-anti-corruption activist Pashinian said he wanted to see the poll place take place “very soon” following his bloc’s September 24 landslide victory in the mayoral race in Yerevan.
The weekend vote showed that the present National Assembly, still dominated by Republican Party (HHK) loyalists of longtime but toppled leader Serzh Sargsyan, does not reflect the popular mood in Armenia, Pashinian said in his latest video address to the nation aired on Facebook.
“The political events showed that preterm elections must be held very soon because political uncertainties hamper new investments in our economy. I think that these elections also showed that in effect the existing parliament does not have a [popular] mandate to operate,” Pashinian said in the address filmed in New York, where he plans to address a session of the UN General Assembly this week.
Pashinian, also a former newspaper editor and opposition lawmaker, became prime minister in May after a “people’s revolution” involving massive but peaceful street protests and civil disobedience dislodged the HHK-led government. The elections in the capital Yerevan were the first major test of his political strength. He appears to have passed that test with flying colours, but analysts have noticed growing opposition in the Kremlin to the course being steered by Pashinian.
Though at every turn Pashinian has asserted the importance of strategic ally Russia to Yerevan, his corruption and human rights crackdowns against top politicians and other figures who did well under the previous regime have ruffled plenty of feathers.
News of Pashinian’s push for general elections to follow the municipal elections partly spread after political scientist Hayk Martiroysan wrote on Facebook that the prime minister, during a closed meeting at the Yale Club in New York, had indicated that the time was ripe for the move.
“Obviously, this is due not only to the more and more aggressive position of the Republican Party of Armenia, but also to the absolute victory of the Civil Contract in the elections to the Council of Elders of Yerevan,” he wrote.
Armenia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) said on September 24 that Pashinian’s My Step bloc received 81% of the votes in the poll. That meant its candidate for mayor, popular TV comedian, actor and producer Hayk "Hayko" Marutian, was the clear winner.
Businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) took 7% of the vote, while the Luys alliance, got 5%, the CEC said. Both groups have seats in Pashinian’s cabinet.
The Republican Party did not contest the elections.
The nine other contenders, including the parliamentary Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), performed poorly.
Under Armenian law, alliances need to win a minimum of 8% of the vote to be represented in the city council. However, the law says that at least three political groups must be represented in the council. Therefore, Luys will also be awarded seats.
The CEC put voter turnout at around 43.7%.
While campaigning in the Yerevan election, Pashinian portrayed it as a referendum on his political future. Around 40% of the small impoverished nation’s population of 2.9mn people live in the capital.
A close Pashinian associate, First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoian, said the election has given Pashinian a renewed mandate.
“A few months after the revolution and the change of government, people once again confirmed their will to...build a new Armenia," Mirzoian was quoted by RFE/RL as saying.
"There is no doubt that early elections to the National Assembly must take place and they are an important condition for the final victory of the revolution,” he added.
“I hope that my fellow citizens today will very actively participate in the vote and won’t stay at home because there is no doubt that you are the ones who will decide [the election outcome],” Pashinian said in a live video address aired on the morning of election day.
Pashinian repeated the appeal late in the afternoon as the signs indicated that Yerevan voters were not turning out at polling stations in large numbers. He suggested that the turnout was relatively low because voters are no longer bribed and bused to polling stations by any party. Armenia's opposition has for years complained that elections were rigged to favor the ruling party.