Exiled Armenia is preparing to vote in snap parliamentary elections, seen as an attempt to see if a hard-won democracy can survive the political turmoil caused by last year’s defeat in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The outcome of Sunday’s election will determine post-war Armenia և The future of the 30-year conflict with Azerbaijan, however, many voters are undecided on, which some say is a choice between bad and worse.
Four blocs և 22 parties will run against acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who resigned in April amid protests over the signing of a peace deal that ended six weeks of hostilities last year.
At least 6,000 people on both sides were killed during the conflict, most of them soldiers.
The Russian-brokered agreement was widely seen as a voluntary advocate for Azerbaijan, seeing Armenia returning territory to and around Nagorno-Karabakh, but Pashinyan insists he has no alternative but to face even heavier losses.
According to experts, which are probably the most competitive elections in the history of modern Armenia, four former leaders of the current republic are running in the parliamentary elections.
When threats և insults are exchanged, ուլ populist rhetoric spreads, some people think that there is a danger of falling into the street of confrontation.
Among the leaders are Pashinyan, a former journalist who came to power in 2018. After leading the so-called Velvet Revolution, Քոչ Robert Kocharyan, a former president who for some represents a corrupt old guard who was overthrown during the corruption era.
While Pashinyan and his “Civil Contract” party promised to separate business from politics during their tenure, Kocharyan is still facing a bribery investigation into receiving a $ 3 million bribe from a businesswoman in the last months of his 2008 presidency.
In total, six of the candidates are being prosecuted.
Kocharyan, who heads the Armenian Alliance, is a former leader of Nagorno-Karabakh and hails from his capital, Stepanakert.
He positions himself as an experienced, security-minded politician who retires to lead Armenia in difficult times.
But a lack of faith in the current government can lead to low voter turnout.
According to a March poll by the International Republican Institute in the United States, more than 40 percent of those polled said they would not vote in the election.
Voters interviewed by Al aze Azira TV expressed indifference towards all sides of the political spectrum.
Georgy Hahramanyan, 37, a linguist in the capital Yerevan, will vote for Kocharyan because “in this situation you chose the lack of two evils.”
“He is charismatic, so I think he is better able to handle the current situation than just saying empty words,” he said.
If a party or bloc fails to get 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held between the two parties with the maximum number of votes.
Experts warn that there are already signs that if this happens, politicians may call their supporters to the streets.
“I do not support Pashinyan, but everything is better than having Kocharyan’s regime back,” said Alex Mkhitaryan, a 42-year-old teacher.
Richard Kirakosyan, director of the Yerevan-based Center for Regional Studies, said Kocharyan “represents the Yura Park of Armenian politics, the revenge of the dinosaurs.”
He expects Pashinyan to win by a narrow majority.
“Unorientated voters will become the key to voting for change, which is likely to be in favor of the government, not because they like or support Pashinyan, but because the opposition is more dangerous,” he said.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict casts a shadow over the polls
The opposition has yet to announce what it would have done otherwise, either during or after the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which began in September last year.
In the minds of many in Armenia, the country is still at war. Regular skirmishes and ceasefire violations continue along the border.
Last week, Baku handed over 15 prisoners of war (prisoners of war) in front of a map detailing the location of mines in Aghdam, which was handed over to it in a November peace agreement.
But the outcome of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a central issue for many Armenians, as is the continued presence of Russian peacekeepers in the area under a treaty that Moscow has helped organize.
“Regardless of who governs, the country is now much stronger in Russia’s orbit,” said Kirakosyan, who believes Moscow prefers to defeat Pashinyan.
“Armenia is the exact opposite of Belarus for the Kremlin. Pashinyan, as a legitimate, democratically elected leader, is a useful cup for the President [Vladimir] Putin, in contrast [Alexander] Lukashenko. “
Narek Minasyan, a senior expert at the government-sponsored Orbeli think tank, who attended the opening, said that the possibility of another large-scale confrontation with Azerbaijan in the short term was low, but that issues such as prisoners of war were being politicized.
He said the election “will answer some important questions about society”.
“Do the citizens of Armenia want the continuation of the 2018 revolution – a process of democratization?” Do they consider this stage of history a failure? “Do they prefer former authoritarian leaders who are trying to position themselves as ‘crisis managers’ to overcome the crisis?” Minasyan said.
“Some people think that the wounds after the war are so deep that the elections will not bring stability, but instead deepen the crisis.”