Armenia PM party Wins Majority In Snap Polls

Armenia's acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (C) waves as he walks to vote at a polling station during early parliamentary elections in Yerevan on June 20, 2021. Karen MINASYAN / AFP
Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (C) waves as he walks to vote at a polling station during early parliamentary elections in Yerevan on June 20, 2021. Karen MINASYAN / AFP.

 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s party won 53.9 percent of the vote in snap parliamentary polls called in an effort to defuse a political crisis after a war with Azerbaijan, official results showed Monday.

An alliance led by his rival, ex-leader Robert Kocharyan, came second with 21 percent, according to the results based on ballots from 100 percent of precincts counted.

A winning party or bloc needs to obtain at least 50 percent of seats plus one and can be assigned additional seats in order to form a government.

Pashinyan hours earlier claimed victory based on early results, but Kocharyan’s grouping swiftly contested the vote and alleged election fraud.

A record four electoral blocs and 21 parties ran for election on Sunday.

The vote was seen as a two-horse race, with both Pashinyan, 46, and Kocharyan, 66, drawing massive crowds in the run-up to the polls.

“The people of Armenia gave our Civil Contract party a mandate to lead the country and personally me to lead the country as prime minister,” Pashinyan announced in the small hours of Monday.

“We already know that we won a convincing victory in the elections and we will have a convincing majority in parliament,” he added, urging supporters to turn up at Yerevan’s main square Monday evening.

Kocharyan’s electoral bloc said it would not recognise Pashinyan’s quick claim to victory, which came when around 30 percent of precincts had been counted.

“Hundreds of signals from polling stations testifying to organised and planned falsifications serve as a serious reason for lack of trust,” the bloc said in a statement, adding it would not “recognise” the results until the “violations” were studied.

On Sunday evening, the general prosecutor’s office said it had received 319 reports of violations. It said it had opened six criminal probes, all of which concerned bribes during campaigning.

Conflicting opinions

The vote was followed by Armenia’s Soviet-era master Russia, arch-foe Azerbaijan and Turkey, which backed Azerbaijan in the six-week war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

Despite stifling heat, nearly 50 percent of around 2.6 million eligible voters cast their ballots, election officials said. Some observers said turnout in the South Caucasus country of three million people was higher than expected.

During a campaign marred by polarising rhetoric, Pashinyan had said he expected his party to secure 60 percent of the vote. Some pollsters had called that estimate far-fetched.

Election officials said the vote was conducted in accordance with Armenia’s legislation.

Kocharyan was himself accused of rigging a presidential election in favour of his hand-picked ally and presiding over a deadly crackdown on protesters in 2008.

Armenia won international praise for holding its first free and fair vote under Pashinyan in 2018.

On the streets of Yerevan on Sunday, Armenians voiced conflicting opinions about Pashinyan.

Voter Anahit Sargsyan said the prime minister, who spearheaded peaceful protests against corrupt elites in 2018, deserved another chance.

She said she feared the return of the old guard whom she accused of plundering the country.

“I voted against a return to the old ways,” said the 63-year-old former teacher.

‘Secure borders’

Another voter, Vardan Hovhannisyan, said he had cast his ballot for Kocharyan, who calls Russian leader Vladimir Putin his friend.

“I voted for secure borders, solidarity in society, the return of our war prisoners, the well-being of the wounded and a strong army,” said the 41-year-old musician.

Critics blame Pashinyan for having ceded territory in and around Karabakh to Azerbaijan in a humiliating truce agreement, and accuse him of having failed to deliver reforms.

Pashinyan has said he had to agree to the Moscow-brokered peace deal with Azerbaijan in order to prevent further human and territorial losses.

More than 6,500 people were killed in the war, according to the latest official figures from Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Besides Kocharyan, who hails from Karabakh and was in power between 1998 and 2008, two other leaders of post-Soviet Armenia backed parties in the race.

During a venomous campaign, candidates exchanged insults and threats. Pashinyan brandished a hammer at rallies, while Kocharyan said he would be ready to fight the prime minister in a duel.

Armenia PM Pashinyan To Resign Ahead Of Parliamentary Elections

In this file photo taken on March 01, 2021 Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan delivers a speech during a rally of his supporters at Republic Square in downtown Yerevan. ARIS MESSINIS / AFP

 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced Sunday that he will resign next month while staying in office until snap parliamentary elections due on June 20, as part of an effort to curb the political crisis gripping the Caucasus country.

Political unrest erupted in ex-Soviet Armenia after Pashinyan in November signed a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan that ended six weeks of fighting for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The prime minister earlier this month announced snap parliamentary polls that he said were “the best way out of the current internal political situation”.

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In a visit to northwest Armenia, Pashinyan told villagers that he will “resign in April” ahead of the vote.

“I will resign not to resign, but in order for early elections to take place,” he said, according to a video published on his Facebook page.

“I will continue to serve as interim prime minister,” he added.

Pashinyan has been under pressure to step down after agreeing to the ceasefire with Azerbaijan, which many in Armenia saw as a national humiliation.

Under the deal, Yerevan handed over swathes of disputed territory to Azerbaijan and allowed Russian peacekeepers to deploy to regions it had controlled for three decades.

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addresses his supporters gathered on Republic Square in downtown Yerevan. Karen MINASYAN / AFP

 

Both anti-government protesters and Pashinyan’s supporters have regularly taken to the streets in the months since.

Pashinyan said that if voters support him and his team, they will “continue to serve you better than before”.

“If not, we will transfer power to whoever you select,” he added.

An ethnic Armenian region, Nagorno-Karabakh broke from Azerbaijan’s control during a war in the early 1990s.

Fresh fighting erupted over the region in late September with Azerbaijani forces backed by ally Turkey.

The conflict claimed around 6,000 lives from both sides.

AFP

Armenian Prime Minister Denounces ‘Attempted Military Coup’

 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday denounced “an attempted military coup” and called on supporters to take to the streets, after the country’s top brass demanded his resignation.

“I consider the statement of the General Staff of the Armed Forces an attempted military coup. I invite all of our supporters to Republic Square right now,” he wrote on Facebook, referring to a central square in the capital Yerevan.

Pashinyan also fired the head of the general staff Onik Gasparyan, after his office released a statement demanding the prime minister and his cabinet step down after the sacking of deputy chief of staff Tigran Khachatryan on Wednesday.

Khachatryan had ridiculed claims by Pashinyan that Iskander missiles supplied by Russia — Armenia’s main military ally — had failed to hit targets during last year’s war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The statement said the firing was made “exclusively on the basis of the personal feelings and ambitions” of Pashinyan.

Pashinyan and his government “are not capable of taking adequate decisions,” the statement said, denouncing “attacks by the authorities aimed at discrediting the Armed Forces.”

Accused of mishandling the war with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, Pashinyan has resisted pressure to step down since November, when he signed a Russian-brokered peace deal that ended six weeks of fighting that had claimed some 6,000 lives.

Under the deal Armenia ceded to Azerbaijan swathes of the region’s territories.

Opposition parties have since staged mass rallies demanding his resignation and were also making calls for supporters to rally on Thursday.

-AFP

Armenian PM Tests Positive For COVID-19 As Cases Surge

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 1, 2019 Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan holds a joint press conference with the German chancellor after a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin. – Armenian Premier Nikol Pashinyan and his family have tested positive for the coronavirus, he said June 1, 2020, as the rate of the virus infections continued accelerating in the Caucasus nation. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP)

 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his family have tested positive for the coronavirus, he said Monday, as the rate of new infections soared in the Caucasus nation.

“My coronavirus test was positive yesterday,” Pashinyan said in a self-recorded video message on Facebook, adding that his family were also infected.

He said he had no “visble symptoms” of the virus and would be working from home.

The prime minister and his wife Anna Hakobyan, who is a journalist, have four children.

The ex-Soviet republic of some three million has so far reported 9,492 cases of the coronavirus and 139 deaths.

Coronavirus patients have overwhelmed Armenia’s hospitals and last week health officials said that intensive care treatment could be soon restricted to patients with the best chance of survival.

Pashinyan’s announcement came nearly one month after Armenia on May 4 lifted a state of emergency imposed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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The prime minister acknowledged his government had failed to enforce anti-virus measures and there had been widespread quarantine violations.

Pashinyan was elected prime minister in the wake of mass popular protests he led two years ago against veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party.

He has since led a relentless crusade against graft and initiated sweeping judicial reforms.

AFP