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Armenia’s Ruling Party Outspends Election Rivals


Armenia - Campaign posters of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's Civil Contract party are displayed during a pre-election rally in Echmiadzin, June 7, 2021.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract party raised and spent more money during Armenia’s parliamentary election campaign than any of its opposition challengers, official records show.

According to its financial report submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC), Civil Contract attracted at least 453 million drams ($910,000) in donations in the run-up to the June 20 elections.

The ruling party, which won the snap elections with almost 54 percent of the vote, claimed to have spent 369 million drams on its election campaign. It said most of that money was used for TV and radio ads as well as billboards, booklets and other campaign materials.

Former President Robert Kocharian’s opposition Hayastan alliance, the official runner-up in the polls, reported a total of 308 million drams in donations to its election fund and put its campaign expenditures at 244 million drams.

The opposition Pativ Unem bloc, the third political force that won seats in Armenia’s new parliament, claimed to have raised 217 million drams and spent 199 million drams. The bloc is led by another ex-president, Serzh Sarkisian.

All three political groups relied heavily on television stations owned by individuals linked to their leaders. Even so, they channeled a large part of their campaign spending into ads aired by two other, more popular private TV networks, according to the CEC.

The 22 other parties and blocs that participated in the elections declared smaller amounts of campaign spending. None of them will be represented in the new National Assembly.

Armenia - A woman walks past a campaign billboard of the opposition Hayastan alliance in Yerevan, May 25, 2021.
Armenia - A woman walks past a campaign billboard of the opposition Hayastan alliance in Yerevan, May 25, 2021.

During the campaign Pashinian portrayed Kocharian, Sarkisian and their associates as corrupt individuals who had enriched themselves while in power. He claimed that they are spending money “stolen from the people.”

For their part, the two opposition forces accused Pashinian’s party of illegally using public funds and other resources for electoral purposes. They also pointed to the presence of several wealthy businessmen among Civil Contract’s election candidates. One of those businessmen led a small pro-government party in the 2000s when Armenia was ruled by Kocharian.

Armenian law stipulates that a party or bloc cannot spend more than 500 million drams on its election campaign. It also bans political donations from private firms and other legal entities.

“While campaign finance regulation is detailed, a number of shortcomings allow for the circumvention of legal provisions,” an election observation mission mostly deployed in Armenia by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a report released on Monday.

The report argued that “the legal definition of campaign expenditures does not cover organizational expenses, such as costs for office space, transportation, communications, and campaign staff, leaving the opportunity for contestants to use these expenses as a means to circumvent spending limits.”

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