By Sareen Habeshian
Armenians went to the polls on December 9 to elect a new parliament. Eleven political parties and alliances, including Nikol Pashinyan’s My Step Alliance and former ruling Republican Party, participated in the parliamentary elections.
The preliminary results, as of 9:00 am on December 10, show the My Step Alliance to be the clear winner with 70.43 percent of the vote. Prosperous Armenia Party came in second with 8.27 percent, followed by Bright Armenia Party with 6.37 percent. The rest of the parties did not meet the minimum 5 percent quota needed to enter parliament. Notably, the Republican Party of Armenia, the old ruling party, only received 4.7 percent of the vote and did not make the cut. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation received 3.89 percent of the vote, the We Alliance had 2.00 percent, the Sasna Tsrer Party received 1.82 percent, the Rule of Law Party had 0.99 percent, Citizen's Decision Social-Democratic Party received 0.68 percent, the Christian-Democratic Rebirth Party had 0.51 percent and lastly, the National Progress Party had 0.33 percent.
Polls opened at 8:00 am, with a few exceptions. Transparency International reported that 8.14 percent of polling stations opened before the designated time of 8:00 am; 81.69 percent opened on time at 8:00 am; 9.83 percent opened between 8:01 am and 8:15 am; 0.34 percent opened after 8:16 am.
According to the Central Electoral Commission, 1,260,840 people or 48.64 percent of the eligible population, voted. In comparison, during the 2017 parliamentary elections, the total voter turnout was 60.86 percent. The highest voter turnout was in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, with 60.6 percent, followed by Vayots Dzor with 55.9 percent and Tavush region with 53 percent.
At the voting booth, voters were offered one ballot for each party. Since nine parties and two alliances were running, voters received 11 ballot sheets. Voters then chose one party ballot for which they are voting and the rest of the party ballots were thrown out. By taking a party’s ballot, the voter automatically voted for that party. In the back of the ballot, the voter chose one district candidate from the list of names from the same party.
Pashinyan Heads to the Polls
Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan cast his ballot in Yerevan's Shengavit district at midday. After voting, Pashinyan answered questions from reporters. Thirty-two foreign and 70 local media registered to cover the elections.
Pashinyan responded to accusations that he is using his executive power to influence the judicial system on former President Robert Kocharyan’s criminal case.
“The judicial system in Armenia has never been more independent than it is today,” he said.
A wiretapped conversation between Pashinyan, the Chief of the National Security Service Artur Vanetsyan and the Head of the Special Investigative Service Sasun Khachatryan, was leaked and posted on YouTube. The leaked conversation was regarding Kocharyan’s arrest and former Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Yuri Khachaturov.
"The court system has never been given any instructions regarding Kocharyan’s case,” Pashinyan said. “The parts of the leaked telephone conversations that prove this have been cut out, they have been edited.”
The Court of Appeals of Armenia ordered the arrest of former President Robert Kocharyan on December 7. Kocharyan was charged on July 26 with overthrowing the constitutional order during the 2008 post-election period.
A Russian journalist asked Pashinyan to comment on the fact that Kocharyan's arrest was ordered just before the elections. Pashinyan responded, "I will not comment on Kocharyan's detention because this process, the criminal case, started long ago and is in no way connected to the elections. If I'm not mistaken, the process started five months ago."
Pashinyan later went live on his Facebook page to call Armenians to participate in the elections and go to the polls.
Twenty-two local and eight foreign observation missions monitored the elections. Throughout the day, a number of electoral violations were reported.
The Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, Arman Tatoyan, said he received 59 reports of electoral violations. Most of the violations were regarding the accessibility of polling stations for people with disabilities, as well as the absence of people’s names on voter lists. Transparency International reported that 48 percent of polling stations were not accessible to people with disabilities.
The General Prosecutor’s office registered 12 electoral violations that can be considered criminal offenses. Ten of the cases were for voting multiples times, one was for the violation of vote secrecy and one was for obstructing the free will of a voter.
The Ministry of Defense of Armenia (MOD) released a statement, saying that they received a total of 39 calls as of 5:00 pm, mainly referring to the organization of the elections, the transfer of military servicemen from the military units and the voting of conscript soldiers. They stated that there have also been reports that soldiers are entering polling stations on a regular basis, but on-site investigations have revealed that this is a misinterpretation. According to the MOD, the matter concerns the organization of the process of entering the electoral precinct in groups.
The process of counting ballots began just after polls closed at 8:00 pm and was live-streamed for public viewing.
Photo by Sargis Bulghadaryan