On the way to the “Soviet” model: what will change in Armenia’s parliamentary elections

On the way to the “Soviet” model: what will change in Armenia’s parliamentary elections

The new system

Parliamentary elections on April 2 will be the first stage of transition from a presidential to a parliamentary Republic. The change of government was approved by referendum on 6 December 2015. The powers of the Prime Minister will be strengthened, and to assert his candidacy to be the winning party or coalition of parties. Will change the procedure of electing the President — the next Chapter (after the expiration in February of 2018 the authority of the incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan) will elect the Parliament. According to the new wording of the Constitution, the powers of the next President will be solely representational.

How to choose will

Parliamentary elections will be held under the new rules: the first will be used exclusively proportional system. The OSCE’s preliminary report on the election points to the complexity of the procedure of election of deputies: at least 101 deputies will be elected through a proportional two-level system. For parties set the threshold to 5% for party blocs — 7%. Four seats reserved for national minorities — Yezidis, Russians, Assyrians and Kurds. Apart from national party lists in 13 electoral districts of the Republic will be submitted to the territorial (ranked) lists of candidates to Parliament of the representatives of parties and blocs. If a stable majority in Parliament is not formed within six days after the announcement of final results, should be carried out a second round of voting on the lists of the two leading parties.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan stated on March 31 that there are preconditions for holding “good elections”. The amendment of the Constitution experts associated with the desire Sargsyan to stay in power. He said that after the expiration of the second term to violate the established fundamental law a prohibition on a third term will not.

On the need for constitutional reform Sargsyan spoke after elections in 2013, where he faced unexpectedly strong competition — his main rival, leader of Heritage party Raffi Hovannisian won almost 37% of the vote. After that, the Sargsyan team has considered how to ensure the continuity of power, draws attention in the review for the Carnegie Moscow Center associate Professor, state University for the Humanities Sergey Markedonov.

The former leaders and topics

Sargsyan is the leader of the Republican party of Armenia, which has a majority in Parliament since 1999. In addition it participates in the elections four parties: Free Democrats “Armenian Renaissance”, Armenian revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun and the Communist party, as well as four blocks — “EFC” (arm. “exit”), “Tsarukyan”, “Ohanyan — Raffi — Oskanyan”, the Armenian national Congress people’s party of Armenia (Congress-ANC). Beginners of the campaign are “EFC” and bringing together former Ministers of defense and foreign Affairs unit “Ohanyan — Raffi — Oskanian”.

New members of the campaign and the “Free Democrats” are in favor of deepening relations of Armenia with the West. Representatives of the “Elk” were against the accession of Armenia to the Eurasian economic Union (EEU). Free Democrats call for withdrawal from the EEU and the development of relations with the EU. However, the chances of passage to Parliament, according to the Russian VTsIOM poll commissioned by the Armenian “Shant” TV company, has only “EFC”, which was going to vote 8% of respondents.

In the lead, according to polls, two political forces — Republican party and the block “Tsarukyan”. The rating of the party of the President before the elections was 21%, the “Tsarukyan” — 22% (according to VTsIOM). Republicans and representatives of the bloc of “prosperous Armenia” has not yet commented on the possibility of combining in the Parliament.

Block “Tsarukyan” is headed by the former leader of the party “prosperous Armenia” party, businessman Gagik Tsarukyan. “Prosperous Armenia” — the second largest in the current Parliament party (37 seats) and up to 2015 were in a coalition with the RPA. However, two years ago Tsarukyan and President Serzh Sargsyan began to publicly criticize each other, and the party went into opposition.

The Republican party and the block “Tsarukyan” great opportunities and resources, including financial and administrative, as well as explains the popularity of the Director of the Armenian analytical center “the Globalization and regional cooperation” Stepan Grigoryan. Voters are inclined to support them, because I see that they are leading in the polls and don’t want to lose the voice, voting for the less popular parties indicated Grigoryan. The opposition, as noted by the expert, are unable to attract the protest electorate, including young people who took part in the rallies of 2015.

One of the main themes of the election campaign was the fight against poverty and unemployment. In Armenia the highest unemployment rate in the former Soviet space — 18%. Block “Tsarukyan” promise to review the current system of benefits and pensions, and also set a minimum salary of 80 thousand AMD (about 9000 rubles). The ruling RPA promises to revise the system of minimum social and labor guarantees and salaries with the aim of improving the investment environment and conditions for stable employment. Block “Armenian national Congress people’s party of Armenia” offers over five years to establish the average size of pension at 40% of salary and to eliminate the mandatory funded pension system. Block “EFC” promises to increase pensions (20%) and salaries of employees of budgetary institutions. The other parties give vague promises to improve the quality of life, without specifying specific indicators.

Supporters of the Communist party at a rally in Yerevan

Photo: Jodi Hilton / Global Look Press

Political transition

Judging by the Polls, none of the parties will not get a sufficient majority to form a government alone. However, according to experts Grigoryan, the Republican party could gain more than 50% of the votes. In this case, it will approve the Prime Minister acting Chairman of the government of Karen Karapatan that have been promised, says Grigoryan. Russian expert on the Caucasus Alexander Skakov, however, I am sure that the Parliament will also host the Dashnaktsutyun party, which has always been in coalition with the ruling party and re-enters the Alliance. The representative of the bloc of “prosperous Armenia” Naira Zohrabyan has ruled out the possibility of merging with the Republican party. With a possible candidate for Prime Minister in the party is still undecided; it is possible that in the case of obtaining a majority in Parliament the Prime Minister will be Gagik Tsarukyan.

In the victory of the Republican party does not doubt the independent MP Zaruhi Postanjyan. She recalled that the CEC had submitted evidence of use of administrative resources by the party: the Director of schools, according to block, “Ohanyan — Raffia — Oskanyan” made lists of voters willing to support the RPA. The CEC, however, did not see the systematic violations and abuses of administrative resources during the campaign.

If the Republican party gets in Parliament is a serious advantage that is created in Armenia’s political system might go the way of “Soviet”, when the leader of the ruling party becomes the leader of the country, taking up only the party post; therefore, Serzh Sargsyan after the expiration of presidential authority to maintain power without having to become Prime Minister, said Grigoryan.

On the foreign policy of Armenia, the election outcome will have no effect, the expert believes Alexander Skakov. There is no difference in the views of the leaders of the polls on the attitude to Russia, he explains. The importance of the strategic Alliance between Moscow and Yerevan, the presidents Vladimir Putin and Serzh Sargsyan confirmed the March 15 talks in the Kremlin. Then Putin wished Sargsyan success of the elections.