Monitors Hail Armenian Vote, Call For Further Electoral Reforms

YEREVAN -- Armenia’s snap parliamentary elections respected fundamental freedoms and were characterized by “broad public trust” and “genuine competition,” international observers say, calling for further electoral reforms to preserve public trust.

Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance scored a landslide victory in the December 9 polls, capturing 70.4 percent of the vote, according to Armenia’s election authorities.

Pashinian now has a parliamentary majority to push through his program of tackling corruption and reforming the economy, nine months after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protests that led to a peaceful change of government and ignited new hopes of more democratic rule.

Official results showed that the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) was at 4.7 percent, failing to clear the 5 percent threshold to make it into the 101-seat National Assembly.

My Step’s closest rival, the Prosperous Armenia Party of wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian, won 8.3 percent.

The liberal, pro-Western Bright Armenia, a party led by former Pashinian ally Edmon Marukian, was in third place with 6.4 percent.

The Dashnaktsutyun party had 3.9 percent.

Turnout was 48.6 percent, some 12 percent lower than the previous parliamentary elections in April 2017.

A monitoring mission that included the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a preliminary statement that the polls were held “with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms.”

“Open political debate, including in the media, contributed to a vibrant campaign, although cases of inflammatory rhetoric online were of concern,” the statement also pointed out.

The international observers added that “general absence of electoral malfeasance, including of vote-buying and pressure on voters, allowed for genuine competition.”

Previous elections in Armenia have been marred by fraud and vote-buying.

The statement welcomed amendments to the election code in May to lift restrictions on media observers and increase penalties for electoral offences, among other things.

“Now that voters have delivered their message, it is up to the political leadership of Armenia to ensure that this momentum is maintained, and that further reforms are implemented to fully consolidate the positive assessment we are making today,” said Peter Osusky, special coordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission.

Pashinian earlier hailed the “clear and transparent” elections and told reporters that “citizens of our country are voting for a revolutionary majority, and they are doing it in a calm environment.”