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Armenian Election Campaign Officially Starts


Armenia - Edmon Marukian, the leader of the opposition Bright Armenia Party, starts its election campaign in Yerevan, June 7, 2021.

Campaigning officially began in Armenia on Monday for the June 20 snap parliamentary elections aimed at ending a serious political crisis resulting from last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Twenty-six political parties and blocs are vying for at least 101 seats in the next Armenian parliament that will decide the political future of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.

The parties will need to win at least 5 percent of the vote in order to be represented in the National Assembly. The legal vote threshold for blocs is set at 7 percent.

The main challengers of Pashinian’s Civil Contract party are the two opposition parties represented in the outgoing parliament as well as blocs led by the country’s three former presidents: Levon Ter-Petrosian, Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian. They blame Pashinian for Armenia’s defeat in the six-week war with Azerbaijan stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement last November.

Most major election contenders began holding meetings with supporters weeks before the official start of the campaign. Pashinian has traded increasingly bitter accusations and insults with Kocharian and Sarkisian. In particular, the latter have accused the incumbent of misrule and inability to confront grave security challenges facing Armenia even after the war.

As he campaigned in Armavir province west of Yerevan on Monday Pashinian again lambasted the two ex-presidents and said that they will be brought to justice for what he called past corrupt practices if he retains power. He also reiterated his calls for voters to hand him a landslide victory in the upcoming elections.

“We expect at least 60 percent of the vote … We must uproot the political forces that want to provoke a civil war in Armenia,” he said at a rally held in the village of Parakar.

Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks at an election campaign rally in Echmiadzin, June 7, 2021.
Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks at an election campaign rally in Echmiadzin, June 7, 2021.

According to an opinion poll commissioned by the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and conducted from April 8 through May 4, only 26 percent of Armenians were ready to vote for Pashinian’s party.

Kocharian and his opposition allies making up the Hayastan (Armenia) bloc campaigned, meanwhile, in southeastern Syunik province. The ex-president was scheduled to hold a rally in the provincial capital Kapan on Monday evening.

Unlike Kocharian, Sarkisian is not seeking to become prime minister or even a parliament deputy. His Republican Party (HHK) has formed an alliance with the opposition Fatherland party of Artur Vanetsian, a former head of Armenia’s National Security Service.

Vanetsian tops the list of the alliance’s election candidates. He kicked off its election campaign in northern Tavush province.

Edmon Marukian, the leader of the parliamentary Bright Armenia Party (LHK), expressed serious concern over mounting tensions between the ruling party and the radical opposition forces led by the two ex-presidents. He claimed that they could plunge the country into a “civil war.”

Marukian said Armenians can prevent it by voting for his party in large numbers. “Or else, if one of those sides succeeds it will seek to destroy the other,” he told reporters while marching through Yerevan together with his associates.

Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the other opposition party represented in the outgoing parliament, was due to hold its first campaign rally in Abovian, a town 15 kilometers north of Yerevan has long been BHK leader Gagik Tsarukian’s political stronghold.

Other senior BHK members presented the party’s campaign platform at a news conference in Yerevan. The BHK promises, among other things, to further deepen Armenia’s security ties with Russia through a new “military-political treaty.”

The document also reaffirms Tsarukian’s controversial pledge to write off every Armenian’s debts commercial banks not exceeding 3 million drams ($5,800).

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