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In difficulty after the military defeat in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian Prime Minister won a clear victory in the early legislative elections on Sunday. A comeback, after the debacle against Azerbaijan, deciphered by Gaïdz Minassian, researcher specializing in Armenia.
Successful bet for the Armenian Prime Minister. Sunday, June 20, the formation of Nikol Pachinian largely won the early legislative elections, giving the lie to the polls which predicted a result neck-to-neck with that of his rival, former President Robert Kotcharian. The outgoing leader’s Civil Contract party won 53.9% of the vote in the first round, against 21% for the main opposition force, the Armenia bloc, allowing Nikol Pashinian to stay in office and form a new government on his own. .
While part of the population called for his resignation after the military defeat against Azerbaijan last autumn, the Armenian leader then chose to bet his political future on early elections. A ballot from which he emerges today strengthened, even if the tension remains high. Even before the official results, his rival took the floor to denounce fraud, pointing to “falsifications planned in advance”. To analyze these results, France 24 spoke with Gaïdz Minassian, journalist at Le Monde, teacher at Sciences Po and researcher specializing in Armenia.
Nikol Pachinian took a clear victory on Sunday as many observers predicted a close ballot, how do you analyze this result ?
Gaïdz Minassian : It is true that the decision to call early elections was a risky political bet for Nikol Pachinian, after the military defeat which considerably tarnished his image. But opposite, the political alternative was very weak. Its opponent, the former president Robert Kotcharian, is a political dead; he is a figure of the old corrupt regime whose main supporter, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, has little weight in the ballot box.
Moreover, the opposition was extremely fragmented with a record number of 22 parties vying for it. A situation due to the inability of opponents to come to an agreement, but also to a complicated electoral system, resulting from the old regime, which favors the candidacies of parties over coalitions. This system, which sets the electoral threshold for entering Parliament at 5% for parties and 7% for alliances, favors the power in place.
With this clear victory, the Prime Minister saved his regime, his image and the democratic process from the Velvet Revolution that brought him to power in 2018.
In addition to the fight against corruption, Nikol Pashinian had made the resolution of the territorial conflict with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh a priority when he came to power in 2018. How to explain that he retains strong support despite the military defeat scathing in the fall ?
First of all, it should be remembered that if the score of Nikol Pachinian’s training remains high, it is much lower than that of previous legislative (53.9% against 70.42%). If we must recognize in Nikol Pachinian the qualities of a tribune and a certain political sense which allow him today to remain in power, it is clear that his mandate was severely affected by the management of this catastrophic military crisis in Haut- Karabakh. Accused by the opposition of not being nationalist enough, Nikol Pachinian has adopted a hard line against Azerbaijan. But Armenia did not have the means for its ambitions and the Prime Minister, cornered, found himself forced to sign a very unfavorable peace agreement, under the aegis of Moscow. A major strategic mistake.
However, the opposition dramatized the defeat considerably, even though it was not Armenia that was at war, despite what government propaganda might have led to believe. Only the Armenian soldiers who were doing their service there fought and it was above all the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh that were decimated. Of course, the Armenians are angry with Nikol Pachinian, but it is also the imagination of the greater Armenia, conveyed by the old regime, which is at the end of the race. Today a paradigm shift is underway in the country, people no longer want war, they are looking primarily for the integration of the country and economic recovery.
>> See the France 24 report: Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian despair
While the control bodies consider the ballot transparent and reliable, the opposition denounces fraud and threatens to challenge the results before the Constitutional Court. Could the political crisis last ?
Although the turnout remains relatively low (49.4%), the Prime Minister’s victory is clear enough to rule out the risk of popular instability that a close result would have left hovering. The accusations of fraud are not very credible, especially since they come from people who, while they were in charge, artificially inflated participation by voting the dead as well as abstaining expatriates. Participation, which was around 70% under the old regime, fell by 20 points with the arrival of Nikol Pachinian. We can blame the current Prime Minister for many things, but we must recognize that, unlike his predecessors, he respects universal suffrage.
Today, the opposition has very little room for maneuver. However, the challenges are not lacking for Nikol Pachinian. Internally, the question is whether he will recognize his mistakes and lead in a more inclusive manner as he is deemed to be a determined leader, but also authoritarian. Finally, at the international level, he must get the country out of its military vulnerability, by securing the support of the West but also of Russia, which preferred its opponent Robert Kotcharian, considered closer to Moscow.