21 November, 2018 21:03

Armenia Elections: Orinats Yerkir Party’s Tainted Leadership

Orinats Yerkir (Rule of Law) Party is among the 11 political parties taking part in Armenia’s snap parliamentary elections scheduled for December 9. Since the party’s inception in 1997, it has participated in all parliamentary elections and has always overcome the five percent threshold, with the exception of the last elections in April 2017.

During its more than 21 year existence, the party has had only one leader, Artur Baghdasaryan. 

Orinats Yerkir participated in the parliamentary elections for the first time in 1999 and overcame the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, the party received nearly 13 percent of the vote. In 2007, it received about seven percent, and in 2012, about 5.5 percent.

In the April 2, 2017 parliamentary elections, the first after the constitutional changes, Orinats Yerkir failed to enter parliament, receiving only 3.7 percent of the vote.

Artur Baghdasaryan took part in presidential elections once, in 2008, and came in third with 17 percent of the vote. He then immediately supported Serzh Sargsyan, who appointed him as the Secretary of the National Security Council. In a political sense, the immediate support for Serzh Sargsyan tarnished the reputation of both Orinats Yerkir and Artur Baghdasaryan.

Baghdasaryan has had a rich political background. A lawyer by profession, he began his career in journalism and worked in the Avangard newspaper. At the age of 25, he entered politics. In November 1993, during the Armenian Pan-National Movement's government, he was elected Deputy Chairman of the Shengavit District Council Executive Committee. A year and a half later, in 1995, he was elected a member of parliament from the 5th constituency of Shengavit District, becoming the youngest legislator in Armenian history at the age of 27.

At the age of 30, he received a Doctorate in Law in Moscow, and a year earlier, in 1996, wrote a book about Armenia’s first President Levon Ter-Petrossian.

"Sober reasoning, solid logic, philosophical depth of thought are inseparable companions of Levon Ter-Petrossian's speeches," Baghdasaryan wrote. "The mind of our nation is deep and rich, it has given birth to many prominent political and state figures. But today and at the moment, there is no one among them who is more capable and therefore deserving to lead this people to a dreamed future than Levon Ter-Petrossian."

In 2008, Ter-Petrossian accused Baghdasaryan of betrayal when the latter supported Serzh Sargsyan.

Robert Kocharyan also accused Baghdasaryan of betrayal after the Armenian special services wiretapped a conversation between Baghdasaryan and the UK Deputy Ambassador in 2006 at the Marco Polo café in Yerevan, during which the Orinats Yerkir leader urged the Europeans to intervene if the authorities falsified the 2007 Parliamentary Elections.

Excerpts from the transcription of the wiretapping were published in the pro-Kocharyan Golos Armenii newspaper.

BAGHDASARYAN: Do you have any information on the delegations that are going to arrive?

UK DEPUTY AMBASSADOR:  We know exactly that the president is against the US and UK delegations.

BAGHDASARYAN: Kocharyan hates the British. It is a fact.

UK DEPUTY AMBASSADOR: I know. And the feeling is mutual.

BAGHDASARYAN: If the elections are rigged, problems will arise in the "New Neighborhood" program. And with the Americans, too. Either way, they just prefer to ignore the Americans here.

In the 1998 and 2003 elections, respectively, Orinats Yerkir and Artur Baghdasaryan supported Kocharyan, who held office for 10 years as a result of disputed and highly criticized elections.  Following a political agreement between Kocharyan, the Republican Party, and the ARF, Baghdasaryan was elected President of the National Assembly in 2003 and remained in office until 2006. He was forced to resign because of disagreements with Kocharyan.

Baghdasaryan seemed to have excellent relations, and perhaps still does, with Serzh Sargsyan, even during those years when Kocharyan hated Baghdasaryan and Orinats Yerkir. Under instruction from Kocharyan, many Orinats Yerkir members, mostly businessmen, left the party in 2006 and 2007.

In the 2013 presidential election, Baghdasaryan and Orinats Yerkir supported Serzh Sargsyan against Raffi Hovannisian.

Orinats Yerkir participated in the April 2017 parliamentary elections under the name Armenian Renaissance. However, rebranding did not help and the party didn't gain enough votes to enter parliament.

For the December 9, 2018 parliamentary elections, Orinats Yerkir (Rule of Law) party has submitted a list once again headed by Artur Baghdasaryan, along with Mher Shahgeldyan and Heghine Bisharyan.


Story by Tatul Hakobyan

Translated by Zara Poghosyan


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