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Nikol Pashinyan changes political face of Armenia

Author : French newspaper Le Monde

Source : Le Monde

Former oppositioner who came to power in the wake of the street movements eight months ago won the Sunday parliamentary elections by a large margin and strengthened his power
19:02, 12 December 2018

Open source

Former oppositionist, who came to power in the wake of the street movements eight months ago, won the Sunday parliamentary elections by a large margin and strengthened his power.

People were chanting "Pachi!"

A pensioner who came with his granddaughter enthusiastically shares his impressions at the entrance to the 10/01 polling station in at Yerevan railway station forecourt. “I have voted since 1998, this is the second time after the mayoral elections!”, he exclaims.

Former opposition leader and now Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan came to power after mass demonstrations this spring and with a large margin won the parliamentary elections held on December 9 in Armenia (two months earlier, one of his supporters made it to the mayor's office).

"The citizens have given us their credibility," he said at night. With a score of 70.43% of the votes (the final figures were announced by the CEC on Monday morning), 43-year-old Pashinyan’s My Step Alliance left ten of its competitors far behind, thereby changing the political face of Armenia. The Republican Party of Serzh Sargsyan, who has been in power for more than ten years was defeated. Until recently, it has still been controlling the parliament, but its opponent decided to hold early elections (to get an opportunity to carry out reforms), and the Republican party won less than 5% of the vote.

Related: Pashinyan bloc wins Armenian snap election

This result, which was obtained only eight months after the start of the transition process, did not come as a surprise. Because the figure of 2.5 million registered voters with a population of 3.5 million was overestimated in the past, or because "this time people voted or did not vote at their own discretion," Pashinyan says. In any case, the turnout was 48.6% against 60.8% in 2017.

Big enthusiasm, high hopes

“Historical” and “revolutionary” – this is how the voters in Yerevan (more than 60% turnout) describe these elections, perceived by many as the first post-Soviet will of the people in this small Transcaucasian country, where for a long time the Republican Party and its associated oligarchs have been controlling everything.

“Pashinyan did what everyone dreamed of, he returned us pride,” says 41-year-old teacher Inessa Badalyan. “These elections remind a referendum on independence in 1991: great enthusiasm, high hopes,” said 53-year-old translator Hasmik Barkhudaryan, who did not vote directly for the new symbol of Armenia, but for the "moderately revolutionary" list, which consolidates the majority.

Related: Nikol Pashinyan becomes Prime Minister of Armenia

In Erebuni, an ancient district of Yerevan, a student Narek and a seminarian Gore talk about their expectations: "The end of corruption, justice, and equality for all." "Salary increase," adds the girl in the red cap, who works in the sphere of cosmetology and earns 90 thousand drams (about 165 euros).

For the new majority, everything is just beginning after eight months of the transition process, which was marked by a controversy about corruption and accusations against several representatives of the former leadership. By the way, on the eve of the elections, former President Robert Kocharyan was deprived of immunity. He ended up in a pre-trial detention center, where he was seriously accused of violating the “constitutional order” during the 2008 demonstrations, which resulted in the death of ten people.

Related: Protests' leader in Armenia officially becomes candidate for prime minister post

It will be tougher, but we are ready

Many of the voters, whom we met, except for social reforms and an end of economic immigration. “Not a single family is entire, - Hasmik Barkhudaryan emphasizes. – One of my cousins lives in the US, the other is in Australia, and my brother lives in France...” Nearly two million Armenians live and work in Russia.

Alen Simonyan, Pashinyan’s colleague, re-elected as a deputy, has been calm for 20 years: “Certainly, it will be harder, but we are ready for it. Our first reforms will concern tax and electoral legislation. We want to promote small business and reduce taxes for all. At the same time, we will collect more."

The fight against corruption involves the fight against the shadow economy. The monopolies that are ubiquitous in Armenia, which has already reduced the price of sugar by 20%, should go away. In other areas, prices went up.

Related: Protests in Armenia: PM Sargsyan's resignation means setback for Russia, - press

The Republican Party pressed on Pashinyan’s “unrestrained promises” and inexperience. “He is a pure populist,” said Armen Ashtyan, former Minister of Education and head of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the eve of the vote. “His policy is a threat to the security,” he said about the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is an open conflict with Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Foreign policy and relations with Russia were practically not raised during the debates, however, they are among the most serious issues that the new majority will have to deal with (it includes many representatives of civil society and NGOs).

Related: Azerbaijan strikes Armenian army in Karabakh

"How can a country that seeks democratic power cooperate with the authoritarian governments?" Artur Sakunts, head of the Armenian Helsinki Group, asks. Armenia is part of the Eurasian Economic Union formed by Vladimir Putin in 2015, as well as the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes a number of post-Soviet republics.

Isabelle Mandraud

Read the original text at Le Monde

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