Nikol Pashinyan, the acting Prime Minister of Armenia, claimed victory in a snap parliamentary election he called in an attempt to defuse a political crisis following a disastrous war with Azerbaijan.
With 75 percent of the reported results, Pashinyan’s civil contract party won 55.61 percent of the vote on Monday. The electoral alliance of his main rival, former President Robert Kocharyan, obtained 20% of the vote, according to the Central Election Commission (CEC).
The turnout was around 50 percent, with some 2.6 million people eligible to vote.
“The Armenian people gave our part of the civil contract the mandate to lead the country and I personally to lead the country as prime minister,” Pashinyan said Monday morning.
“We already know that we have achieved a convincing victory in the elections and that we will have a convincing majority in parliament,” he added.
The Kocharyan bloc, however, questioned the credibility of the preliminary results and said they would not recognize Pashinyan’s quick claim to victory, which came after only 30% of the constituencies had been counted.
“Hundreds of signals from polling stations showing organized and planned falsifications constitute a serious reason for lack of confidence,” the bloc said in a statement, adding that it would “not” recognize “the results as long as the” violations. “would not have been studied.
Earlier Sunday evening, the attorney general’s office said it had received 319 reports of violations. He said he opened six criminal investigations, all of which involved bribes during the campaign.
The election is being monitored by experts from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which recently assessed the vote as largely fair and free. They will deliver a global verdict on Monday.
Opinion polls prior to the election had brought the two parties shoulder to shoulder. And while a record number of four electoral blocs and 21 parties have stood for election, only a handful are expected to win seats in parliament.
Six day war
Pashinyan had called the snap ballot in an attempt to end a political crisis that erupted after ethnic Armenian forces lost a six-week war against Azerbaijan last year and ceded territory in and around the region. of Nagorno-Karabakh. More than 6,500 people have been killed in the war, according to the latest official figures from Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan has since been under pressure, with regular street protests demanding that he resign on the terms of the peace deal that ended the conflict. As part of the deal, brokered by Russia, Azerbaijan regained control of the territory it lost in a war in the early 1990s. Pashinyan himself called the deal a disaster, but said he was forced to sign it in order to avoid greater loss of life and territory.
From Moscow’s point of view, Pashinyan is the guarantor of the maintenance of the agreement. This includes the stationing of some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Arsen Kharatyan, a former adviser to Pashinyan, told Al Jazeera that the results gave the interim prime minister a chance to form a government “so that internal political unrest will end”.
“Now, how are you going to deal with the situation Armenia finds itself in? Overall, the region’s security architecture has not changed much since the war. Russia will always be a major player in all of this. So whoever comes to power will have to deal directly with Moscow, ”Kharatyan said, adding that Sunday’s vote also showed that none of the parties campaigning on a“ pro-Western agenda had won enough votes ”.
Armenia, home to a Russian military base, is a close ally of Moscow, although Pashinyan, who came to power following street protests and as part of an anti-corruption program in 2018, has had connections. colder with the Kremlin.
Turkey, which supported Azerbaijan in last year’s conflict, will also closely follow the elections.
In the streets of Yerevan on Sunday, Armenians expressed conflicting views on Pashinyan.
Voter Anahit Sargsyan said the prime minister, who led peaceful protests against corrupt elites in 2018, deserved another chance.
She said she feared the return of the old guard she accused of plundering the country.
“I voted against going back to the old ways,” said the 63-year-old former teacher.
Another voter, Vardan Hovhannisyan, said he voted for Kocharian, who calls Russian leader Vladimir Putin his friend.
“I voted for secure borders, solidarity in society, the return of our prisoners of war, the well-being of the wounded and a strong army,” said the 41-year-old musician.
Kocharyan, from Karabakh, accused the Armenian leadership of inaction during last year’s war and pledged to start negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh borders if he came to power.
Kocharyan was President of Armenia from 1998-2008 and was accused of acting illegally when he instituted a state of emergency in March 2008 after contested elections.
At least 10 people were killed in the ensuing clashes between police and protesters.