Campaigning Starts For Armenian Snap Elections

Campaigning officially kicked off on Monday for Armenia’s snap parliamentary elections which Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and his political allies are expected to win by a landslide.

Two alliances, including Pashinian’s My Step bloc, and nine political parties are vying for at least 101 seats in the Armenian parliament that will elect the next prime minister, the country’s most powerful official.

The pre-term elections result from this spring’s mass protests that brought down Armenia’s longtime leader Serzh Sarkisian. They will be held on December 9 under a complicated system of proportional representation. Armenians will vote for not only parties and blocs as a whole but also their individual candidates running in a dozen nationwide constituencies.

Under Armenian law, a political party needs to win at least 5 percent of the vote in order to be represented in the National Assembly. The vote threshold for blocs is set at 7 percent.

Pashinian reiterated his pledges to ensure that the elections are the most democratic in Armenia’s history when he formally launched his election campaign in the northwestern Shirak province.

“From now on, every time you decide to do a revolution you can do it with a single ballot,” he told supporters at a rally held in the town of Talin. “Why did the [spring] revolution take place? Because the people were denied a chance to form a government through elections, because your votes were stolen, because your choice was distorted through voter bribes, threats and various irregularities.”

My Step is widely regarded as the election favorite. Most of its 183 election candidates are members of the Pashinian-led Civil Contract party. The bloc’s electoral list also includes non-partisan civic activists and other public figures allied to the popular premier.

Civil Contract until recently made up the Yelk alliance together with two other parties, Republic and Bright Armenia. They decided to participate in the upcoming elections separately. Republic joined forces with another small pro-Western party earlier this month.

Among other major election contenders are businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The BHK finished second in all legislative elections held in the past decade.