Armenians Urged To Respect Rule Of Law Following Snap Elections

YEREVAN — Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has cemented his position with a landslide election victory called 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 breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Preliminary results showed that Pashinian’s Civil Contract party won 53.9 percent of the vote, while former President Robert Kocharian’s Armenia Alliance — which is alleging election fraud though it has not presented evidence to back up the claim — got 21 percent.

The I Have The Honor bloc won just over 5 percent and will also be represented in parliament.

The results, if they hold, mean Pashinian’s party will control an even greater percentage of seats than the 50 percent needed to rule, since the votes of parties that didn’t clear the threshold will be distributed among those that enter parliament.

International observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the vote was “competitive and generally well-managed.”

WATCH: International Observers: Armenia’s Elections Were ‘Competitive And Generally Well-Managed’

“The vote count was assessed positively in most polling stations where it was observed and was characterized by a high level of transparency,” the OSCE said.

“Reconciliation and counting procedures were followed overall, and observers noted very few significant procedural errors or serious violations,” it added, noting the election on the whole was “characterized by intense polarization and marred by increasingly inflammatory rhetoric among key contestants.”

Still, Kocharian’s alliance said it would not recognize the results until alleged voting irregularities were addressed.

The former president reiterated his claims on June 22 and said that his bloc will challenge the election results before the Constitutional Court.

The EU mission to Armenia said in a statement on June 22 that “any complaints or appeals regarding the electoral process should be addressed thoroughly and expeditiously using the appropriate procedures as foreseen in the legal framework of Armenia.”

It also called “on all political forces to now work together in order to effectively tackle the challenges Armenia is confronted with, in the interest of the Armenian citizens.”

Earlier, the U.S. State Department welcomed the overall positive assessment by the OSCE’s election observation mission, and urged all parties to “respect the rule of law and democratic principles.”

Armenians of all political forces should respect the election results once certified, “employ the legal election grievance process to address issues of concern, and avoid political retaliation,” spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

The Central Election Commission said nearly half of eligible voters had cast their ballots. Its head, Tigran Mukuchian, said the election “on the whole” was conducted in line with local rules and regulations.

Addressing thousands of supporters in Yerevan late on June 21, Pashinian said the political crisis in the country was over and called for unity.

Acknowledging “some aggressive rhetoric” during the campaign, he urged “all participants in the political process in Armenia to…put an end to acrimony.”

Opinion polls before the election showed the contest to be mainly a neck-and-neck race between Pashinian’s party and Kocharian’s newly created alliance, with each at around 24 percent support.

The election was held against the backdrop of already flaring tensions following a monthslong political crisis fueled by the defeat of Armenian forces against Azerbaijan in a six-week war last fall over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Pashinian, who stepped down as required by law to allow the election to take place but remains the country’s leader, called the early election in response to sustained opposition rallies and dissent within the state over his handling of the war that ended with a Moscow-brokered cease-fire in November 2020.

The fragile peace deal restored Baku’s sovereignty over a chunk of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts that had been controlled by ethnic Armenian forces since a war in the early 1990s. The defeat stunned Armenians and prompted months of recriminations.

During the election campaign, emotionally charged threats and insults raised concerns of postelection violence, especially in the event of allegations that the result is rigged or otherwise challenged. More than a dozen opposition candidates and activists were detained during the campaign, accused of bullying or bribing voters.

On the eve of the election, the largely ceremonial President Armen Sarkisian urged his compatriots to remain peaceful, saying it would be unacceptable that “political and moral boundaries are crossed, that the situation escalates and hatred and enmity are fomented.”