2013 Elections: Armenia’s Geopolitical Future and Prospects for Democracy

 2013 (Re)Election Results in Armenia

Since regaining independence in 1991, Armenia’s presidential elections have been marred by fraud, while the incumbent political authorities have consistently been able to reestablish themselves. Massive post-election protests took place after the presidential elections in 1996, 2003, and 2008. In 2013, the country found itself in a similar situation. With over 58 percent of the votes, the incumbent, President Serzh Sargsyan, was declared the winner, while Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the Heritage Party, received about 37 percent of the vote.

Unique to the 2013 elections was that they were likely manipulated before the formal start of the campaign, as all major opposition political parties ultimately sat out of the elections. Not only did the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), and the opposition bloc Armenian National Congress (ANC) refuse to nominate or support any candidate, but they also relinquished their organizational capabilities for monitoring the electoral process. Moreover, these parties did not call for elections boycott per se, even though they expressed distrust in the existing democratic mechanisms for regime change. Since 1991, behind-the-scenes bargaining between the government and the oppositional political forces has given rise to a loss of public trust in Armenia’s political institutions.

During President Sargsyan’s first term in office, he did not encourage the independence of the judiciary or the legislature, both of which continue to act as mere appendages of the executive. He reinvented the Soviet methods of direct party control over higher educational institutions and secondary schools: the President, the Prime Minister, and the Speaker of the Parliament (all members of the ruling Republican Party) have been “elected” heads of the governing councils of major state universities. The pseudo student councils are also run by the Republican youth, and approximately 90 percent of the secondary school principals are Republicans.  

Sargsyan also pointedly blurred the distinction between the organs of state and the current political administration. He consolidated monopolistic control and actual censorship over Armenian main broadcast media, including the state-funded public television H1 and other popular Armenian TV channels (for instance, massive protest demonstrations in Yerevan on the President’s inauguration day, April 9, which resulted in tense standoff and clashes with police, never received live broadcast on any channel, while the main news program on H1 gave them only two minutes out of 46).Therefore, the deactivation of the major political parties just prior to the presidential elections threatened to severely damage the ostensibly democratic political system of the Republic. 

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Armen Ayvazyan

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