Thousands of people gathered in the Republic Square of Yerevan on Monday evening to listen to Nikol Pashinyan’s victory speech, when he ignored the public anger to win the decisive election.
He told the waving crowd that his re-election meant the crisis was now over, given the protests against him following last year’s defeat to Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, which sparked a special referendum on Sunday.
According to him, the government can again “work as usual” to build a new Armenia.
He called for unity as the divisive campaign exchanged threats and insults, intimidating some into throwing the confrontation into the streets.
Several months of his protests over the war led to an internal political crisis; in April, Prime Minister Pashinyan stood up.
There have been rallies against Pashinyan since the vote, but there have been no reports of violence or arrests.
The Armenia Alliance, which came in second with 21 percent of the vote, led by former President Robert Kocharyan, has announced its plans to challenge the election results.
During his tenure, Kocharyan was accused of rigging the election results, which led to protests and violent police crackdowns in 2008 that killed 10 people.
Election observers, however, did not express concern over the legality of the voting. 2018 The second free and fair elections in Armenia after the “Velvet Revolution”.
Experts say the result could be for the country’s future, that the way in which Armenian society manages post-war political developments is likely to turn or break its democracy.
Some say it could mean a softening of relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Many argued that the vote, which involved 26 parties – blocs but mostly two-horse races – offered a choice between “security” and “democracy”.
Pashinyan came to power after leading the 2018 revolution, promising reforms such as anti-corruption measures, while Kocharyan represents the failed old guard who pushed for the expansion of the armed forces.
“The election campaign included misinformation, false stories, manipulation of people’s fears by all parties,” said Sosi Tatikyan, Armenia’s foreign and security policy adviser. “Many people voted for Pashinyan because they feared the return of previous governments, which are linked to corruption, political and civil rights restrictions.”
However, Tatikyan believes that the vote shows the “determination” of Armenians to address defense, security and economic issues “without sacrificing democracy and human rights.”
Although not everyone agrees.
Protests were reported on Monday in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The region is internationally recognized as the territory of Azerbaijan, even by Armenia, but is ruled by ethnic Armenians who either want to separate or join Armenia.
Several wars have been fought for this, including last year’s conflict, which killed more than 6,000 people on both sides.
After Armenian leader Arayk Harutyunyan congratulated Pashinyan on his victory in Nagorno-Karabakh, protesters in the region called for his resignation.
He was closely followed by Soviet-era Armenia master Russia, who soon offered congratulations on his “convincing” victory, as he did in Turkey and Azerbaijan.
In last year’s Six-Week War, Turkey backed Azerbaijan by providing sophisticated weapons such as drones to help advance the war.
Turkey և Armenia has no official relations. The borders between the two countries have been closed since 1993. The relations between Baku and Yerevan are similar.
However, Pashinyan’s victory may melt. He was the leader who signed a Russian-brokered agreement to end the conflict and return most of the territories occupied in the previous war to Azerbaijan.
During a visit to Baku last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that a regional platform would be set up to increase integration in the region, which would include six countries: Turkey, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.
“We are ready for any kind of sacrifice. Mr. Putin too. “With steps to be taken in this direction, the region will become a zone of peace,” he said.
“We hope that Armenia will take this extended hand of solidarity and use the opportunity to build a common future together.”
In May, Pashinyan said. “Turkey is our enemy, but that enmity must be managed,” which suggests a possible departure from years of tough hostility.
Vicken Cheterian, a political analyst who teaches international relations at Ickster Webster University, says the status quo could change next year.
“After this election, I think there will be at least some serious attempts to see how the post-war” post-election relations between Armenia and its neighbors “will be formed,” he said.
“Will we see whether there will be a serious process of settlement, opening of borders, communication and diplomatic exchanges, or will we fall behind?”
When it comes to Russia, experts predict that there will be no significant policy change, only that Moscow’s influence is likely to continue to grow.
It will be difficult for Pashinyan to control the growing post-conflict dependence on Russia, especially since he mediated the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire, with 2,000 of his peacekeepers remaining there.
“The election results do little to challenge Armenia’s relations with Russia. “Before the Velvet Revolution, Russia enjoyed structural superiority over Armenia,” said Anna Ohanyan, a senior non-resident researcher at Carnegie Russia’s Eurasia program.
“In the post-war period, Russia has more cards than Armenia, but Armenia’s continued reliance on participatory politics gives the Kremlin leverage. “With this election result, Pashinyan will be able to continue working with the Kremlin to implement the trilateral Nagorno-Karabakh peace agreement.”