March 15, 2012
The Profile of Parliamentary Elections
in Armenia (part 1 of 2)
By Edmond Y. Azadian
The parliamentary election campaign is
in full swing in Armenia. The ruling and the opposition parties, as well as the electorate, anticipate changes in the May
6 elections, each to justify its own expectations. The heat of the ongoing debates, shifting alliances and the news coverage
are nary a blip on the Diaspora’s radar, whereas for Armenians in the homeland, the elections will determine the future
course of the country, its foreign policy, the prospects of the economy and the ratings of the elections by world organizations,
which will in turn affect the quantity and quality of help Armenia may expect from the outside world.
Democratic elections are new for Armenia,
and ever since independence, every election has come to be viewed as the measure of the country’s maturity in the democratic
The passive stance or indifference in the
Diaspora may be attributed to the complex nature of the political scene in Armenia, beginning with the real challenge of deciphering
the acronyms of the political parties involved in order to understand their philosophies or political platforms and form an
educated opinion on the overall situation. In addition, shifting alliances make it even harder to follow the flow of news
and the shape of the electoral campaign.
There are 131 seats in the parliament.
Forty-one members are elected through a majority vote, running on an individual basis. Deputies elected on party slates fill
the remaining 90 seats.
Since the last election, the ruling coalition
comprised President Serge Sargisian’s Republican Party, Gagik Zaroukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party, Arthur Baghdassaryan’s
Country of Laws Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) (Dashnag party). The latter split from the coalition
and claimed to be in the opposition, which the radical opposition HAK (its acronym in Armenian, which translates into Armenian
National Congress) never believed nor acknowledged.
The ARF and Raffi Hovannisian’s Heritage
Party tried to maneuver at the last minute to amend the constitution and adopt one system of election — by party slates,
a move that was defeated by the ruling coalition.
Today, during the current election, the
major players are six parties: Republican, Prosperous Armenia, Land of Laws, ARF, HAK (Armenian National Congress) and the
Heritage Party, recently reinforced by Free Democrats, which split from HAK.
As far as the ideologies of these parties
are concerned, there are no clear-cut platforms. That is why a political analyst in Aravot Daily, Aram Aprahamian, defined
those ideologies as “fuzzy.” Because those parties pursue either special interests or are based on a single oligarch’s
wealth. He went on with his typical sarcasm to add: “The Republican party claims to be conservative nationalist imbued
with our national hero Njdeh’s ideas. I can’t make heads or tails.”
On the other hand, he found out that the
Opposition HAK does not need any ideology per se until it “destroys” the current administration of “bandits”
(per Levon Zourabian) and it replaces it with a “legitimate” rule; then it can begin to look for an ideology.
Prosperous Armenia represents its founders’
interests, namely oligarch Gagik Zaroukian, and it entertains one “fuzzy” goal of bringing back former President
The Country of Laws (Orinatz) party does
not have a political leg to stand. Its leader, Arthur Baghdassaryan, managed last time to be appointed as the national security
secretary by hanging on the coattails of the Republican Party.
The only party, which exercises Western-style
parliamentarianism, is Hovanissian’s Heritage Party, which counts eight members in the parliament, almost all of them
professionals and intellectuals. They propose draft laws, they come up with innovative ideas and they stand up and fight for
their positions diligently, regardless of whether they win or lose.
More recently, they projected an enhanced
profile and there was some talk to align with the Prosperous Armenia Party. However, the party had a “marriage of convenience”
with the ARF, as it lacks a broad-based, grassroots support and it intends to compensate that void with ARF’s grassroots.
But they had an actual marriage with Free Democrats (most prominent among them former Foreign Minister Alik Arzoumanyan),
whose godmother is believed to be the former US ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch.
During its recent convention,
the Heritage Party released its platform where there is criticism to the extension of Armenia’s military pact with Russia;
that already indicates where the party is coming from.