Armenians have been voting since this morning in early legislative elections because of the crisis that erupted after the defeat in Nagorno Karabakh suffered by Azerbaijan last autumn. The result of that contest strongly polarized the country’s society, protests began against the current acting prime minister, Nikol Pashinián, who was accused of accepting a “capitulation”, and he was forced to call the elections with the intention of to settle the confrontation at the polls. It is not clear that this objective will be achieved and no one rules out that the crisis, even worsening in the form of revolt, will continue after the votes.
The electoral campaign has been really dirty, riddled with insults, accusations and mutual threats between the different political forces. Clear examples of this were the rally that Pashinián gave on Thursday in Yerevan, and the event called the next day by his main adversary, former President Robert Kocharián. Their respective formations, the Civil Contract Party and the Armenian Bloc, are the ones that will foreseeably grab most of the seats in Parliament.
Pashinián, a former journalist, became head of the “transitional” government on May 8, 2018 after leading a successful revolt that toppled Serzh Sargsián. This one had finished his mandate like president of Armenia and tried to continue in the position of prime minister, for which it was designated really although it had to resign by the popular pressure. So Pashinián called legislatures for December of that same year and won them with an absolute majority. Now the polls do not give him more than 25% support.
Everything was going well, the new chief executive undertook economic reforms and broad political implications, in addition to curbing corruption, which contributed to increasing his popularity. Despite the fact that the way in which he came to power was not liked at all in Moscow, he worried about establishing a relationship with President Vladimir Putin. Everything was cut short when, on September 27 last year, the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliev, launched an offensive to recover Nagorno Karabakh, a territory belonging to Azerbaijan, but populated mainly by Armenians and then totally out of Baku’s control.
Kocharián, to whom polls grant around 24% of the vote, was leader of Nagorno Karabakh between 1994 and 1997 and president of Armenia between 1997 and 2008. Hence, he is presented as a candidate to lead the Government of institutional and with experience. Its weak points are the memory of the widespread corruption that it protected and the violent way in which it repressed the protests after the 2008 elections, in which its dolphin, Sargsián, won, who managed to beat the opposition candidate, Levón Ter-Petrosián. Sargsián’s party is also running in the current elections along with a score of other formations, most of which will not win seats.
After a month and a half of armed confrontations, between September 27 and November 10, Pashinián accepted a cessation of hostilities, but at the cost of losing a large part of the territories that the Armenians controlled. He was branded a “traitor” and had to face for weeks the mobilizations organized by the opposition demanding his resignation. He even had a clash with the leadership of the Army.
In Moscow, despite Putin’s old ties to Kocharián, analysts believe they prefer Pashinyan. The peace agreement signed with Azerbaijan, which includes the deployment of Russian peacekeepers, was promoted by Putin and the best way that such an agreement is not subjected to some kind of review is by ensuring that the reins of Armenia remain in the hands of the current one. Prime Minister.