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Armenia

Armenian Opposition Bloc Wins Enough Votes To Enter Parliament

Voting Starts In Armenian Parliamentary Electionsi
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May 06, 2012
Voting has begun in Armenia’s May 6 parliamentary elections, which pose the most serious challenge yet to President Serzh Sarkisian’s four-year rule and his administration’s declared commitment to democratic reform.

WATCH: Armenians cast their votes in parliamentary elections on May 6.

By RFE/RL
Armenia's Central Election Commission says President Serzh Sarkisian's governing Republican party took 44.05 percent of the vote after all ballots from the contest on May 6 were counted.

The victory puts the party in a commanding position in parliament and boosts Sarkisian ahead of presidential polls next year. 

The junior partner in the country's current governing coalition, the Prosperous Armenia party, came in second with just under 31 percent.

The opposition Armenian National Congress bloc also won enough votes to enter parliament, according to preliminary results. Officials said the party had obtained more than 7 percent of the vote -- surpassing the minimum 7 percent threshold needed to hold seats in the legislature.

A number of parties competing against Sarkisian's Republicans have already cried foul.

Speaking at a joint news conference held shortly before the release of the first official figures late on May 6, senior representatives of the Prosperous Armenia party, the Armenian National Congress, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation brushed aside as “extremely incredible” the election commission's claim that more than 62 percent of eligible voters took part in the elections, accusing the authorities of grossly inflating the turnout.

In a joint statement, they said that figure is “only deepening suspicions regarding the legal course of the elections.”

Armenian National Congress coordinator Levon Zurabian condemned the elections as "disgraceful" and marred by vote-rigging. He said his party and other opposition forces would proceed with a planned rally on May 8 in the capital's Liberty Square.

The Armenian National Congress is led by former President Levon Ter-Petrossian. 

Around 2.5 million people in the country of 3.3 million were eligible to vote in the elections, which were contested by eight parties and one bloc.

Unemployment, Poverty, Emigration

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called the vote competitive and largely peaceful -- although some shortcomings in the democratic process undermined confidence in the poll.

An OSCE statement on May 7 said that while freedoms of assembly and expression were respected in the campaign, the vote suffered from a "general lack of confidence in the integrity of the process amongst political parties and the general public."

Campaigning mainly focused on unemployment, poverty, and emigration rather than Armenia's disputes with neighboring Azerbaijan.

The government had promised an orderly election for the 131-seat National Assembly, hoping to avoid any turmoil like the incidents of 2008, when battles between riot police and opposition supporters left 10 people dead.

Russian Central Election Commission member Siyabshakh Shapiyev, who is observing the vote, was quoted earlier on May 6 as saying that voting had been proceeding smoothly and that no violations had been observed.

On May 4, the last day of the election campaign, scores of gas-filled balloons exploded at a Republican party rally in Yerevan led by Sarkisian, unleashing a fireball into the air and injuring around 150 people.

The OSCE said Armenia's 2007 parliamentary ballot fell short of international standards.

Journalist Attacked

In related news, RFE/RL correspondent Elina Chilingarian was attacked by a young man outside a polling station in the Armenian capital.

The man approached Chilingarian while she was videotaping busloads of people arriving to vote in the southern Erebuni district of Yerevan on May 6.

The video shows the man approach the reporter. He asks Chilingarian if she is filming him, before knocking the camera out of her hands.

A police complaint has been filed and the matter is now under investigation.

Chilingarian was not hurt in the incident. 

With reporting by RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Interfax, and AP
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Robert from: Yerevan, ARM
May 08, 2012 08:40
Many democratic Armenians actually prefer to return Karabakh to Azerbaijan and settle the conflict. It doesnt matter who's in charge in Yerevan, the corrupt Karabakh-clan uses the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to create hatred against Azerbaijan. This allows the Karabakh-clan to remain in power. Ter-Petrosiyan predicted in 1999 that keeping Karabakh would doom Armenia. Well its true now. The majority of our borders are closed and the Georgian-Russian borders are closed aswell. Armenian trade and economy is a joke. The country is sustained by remittances from Russia, US and France. This is not how a modern state operates, its utterly embarrassing for us! The solution is cooperation with neighbours and integration in the new upcoming Silk-Road project. Armenian people were already excluded many other regional projects that brought benefit to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Silk Road is our last chance to integrate and fix our country. To get access to the Silk Road we need to fix the Artsakh conflict with Azerbaijan. If we must let go of Artsakh to save Armenia then be so. Blind nationalism will be our undoing. I think its more important to look at the bigger picture. I say forget Artsakh and focus on OUR country. Lets take Yerevan back in our own hands! And lets destroy corruption and monopolies and promote democracy, freedom and cooperation!
In Response

by: Phil from: UK
May 08, 2012 15:02
Robert, thanks for a very well written and thought out post!

However, as much as I agree with your completely logical and progressive point of view, I don’t think it is something we can expect to happen as the Armenian nationalist brigade will be here shortly, blaming Turks and Azeri folk for everything under the sun along with a range of blind racist slurs, propaganda and insults
In Response

by: Sey from: World
May 08, 2012 15:09
Despite what you say its true, which one does not need to be a genius to actually realize, I've spoken to many Armenians both from Armenia and from the diaspora, and if there is something all of them agree on is that returning Karabakh to Azerbaijan is NOT what they want to do.

So you are either a very strange Armenian, or you are something else trying to be disguised as an Armenian. But if you're an Armenian I truly praise you, since you seem to be the only thinking person around.

Despite what the nationalists say, if you give Karabakh back to the Azeries and make peace with them and the Turks, only YOU can win, not them. The only thing Azeries have to lose is Karabakh, which they've not controlled for over 20 years...meanwhile Armenia can lose its entire population, its economy, its stability, and maybe even its sovereignty, not mentioning there can actually be a war.

Armenians should've realized of that as of now.

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