March 16, 2012
The Profile of Parliamentary Elections
in Armenia (part 2 of 2)
By Edmond Y. Azadian
The Free Democrats split from Levon Ter-Petrosian’s
Radical Opposition Group HAK, which lost some steam during the last few years. Some groups were disillusioned because Ter-Petrosian
did not put his money where his mouth was; after delivering fiery speeches at rallies to “deconstruct” or to “dismantle”
kleptocracy, he opted for a more moderate course and he even tried to enter into negotiations with the ruling coalition without
any success. Other groups, like the Free Democrats, defected because they blamed HAK for having too much of an authoritarian
decision-making process within the organization. In addition, that was proven to be true when it was revealed that Ter-Petrosian
will form the election slate single handedly. HAK is composed of 18 parties and associations; four of them have already decided
not to be featured on the election slate.
One unsolved mystery keeps fueling speculations
in the media: the relationship between coalition partners. Indeed the Republican Party and the Prosperous Armenia Party had
signed an official pact to participate together in the elections. Some friction between them surfaced in recent months, encouraging
different parties to woo the Prosperous Armenia Party. Even opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian extended the olive branch
to Zaroukian, who, to this day, remains uncommitted and does not try to dispel rumors about the collapse of the coalition,
on the other hand avoiding any bait extended to him.
Former President Robert Kocharian’s
shadow looms behind the mystery.
The big question remains: is there an understanding,
or a pact, between Presidents Kocharian and Serge Sargisian to swap positions during the next presidential elections, similar
to the Putin-Medvedev pact which brought back Vladimir Putin to the presidential office? Alternatively, was there a commitment
by President Sargisian to offer the office of the prime minister to Kocharian?
Moreover, if there were such agreements
and President Sargisian has changed the rules of the game midstream, then rumors of frictions or conflicts between the coalition
partners can be explained. Zaroukian’s group insists that Kocharian’s shadow must not be sought behind the party.
Some other media pundits believe that there
is a ploy to air agreed disagreements between the parties to disorient the public and especially the opposition. Whatever
the game or the mystery, it will come out during — or even before — the elections.
Pollsters predict that ARF may again pass
the bar of 5 percent and send the same number of members to the parliament. The 5-percent ratio is also cited in the case
of Armenian National Congress. That way the former President Levon Ter-Petrosian will have a more comfortable forum to deliver
his lectures to his followers, rather than freezing them in Opera Square.
An election scenario emerges where almost
all parties are set up against the ruling Republican Party, but they lack coordination to make an impact.
The profile in the next parliament predicts
some chipping of power from the Republican Party. Once in the parliament, the opposition, in its turn, cannot continually
threaten “to dismantle” the administration. The opposition has set its goal higher and believes that the upcoming
parliamentary elections will also determine the outcome of next year’s presidential election.
Thus, the road will be paved for the other
parties to maneuver between the two blocks, somehow creating some checks and balances at the executive level.
Recently, a mayoral election took place
in the city of Hrazdan, where the popular opposition candidate Sassoun Mikaelian lost by a narrow margin. He refused to contest
the election results, and the European observers considered the election fair and democratic. That seems to have served as
a weathervane for the upcoming parliamentary elections. This, of course, does not mean that bribing and ballot stuffing will
be eliminated, but they will be limited to a certain degree, and the games will be played in a more sophisticated manner.
After all the starving electorate there expects such things to happen.
However, the president assured his audience
during the Republican Party Convention that the government is planning to organize clean elections.
Even if far from perfection,
Armenia is moving forward it its democratic exercise, albeit at a snails pace.