Ar­me­ni­ans set to cast bal­lots in snap vote

Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions ex­pected to ce­ment rule of the new premier who led April protests

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

YEREVAN: Ar­me­ni­ans are set to vote in snap par­lia­men­tary polls this Sun­day that is ex­pected to ce­ment the rule of the new prime minister who spear­headed the mas­sive protests ear­lier this year that forced the res­ig­na­tion of his pre­de­ces­sor.

The charis­matic 43-year-old Nikol Pashinian, who took of­fice in May, pushed for the elec­tions in a bid to win control of a Par­lia­ment that was dom­i­nated by his po­lit­i­cal foes.

Pashinian, a for­mer jour­nal­ist turned politi­cian, has tapped into pub­lic anger over wide­spread poverty, high un­em­ploy­ment and ram­pant cor­rup­tion in the land­locked for­mer Soviet na­tion of 3 mil­lion that bor­ders Ge­or­gia, Azer­bai­jan, Turkey and Iran.

His fiery rhetoric and easy style have helped ce­ment his pop­u­lar­ity.

Opin­ion polls have in­di­cated that Pashinian’s My Step al­liance is set to sweep the vote, while the Repub­li­can Party that con­trolled the old par­lia­ment is trail­ing far be­hind.

The protests in Ar­me­nia erupted in April when Serzh Sargsyan, who had served as pres­i­dent for a decade, moved into the prime minister’s seat, a move seen by crit­ics as an at­tempt to hold on to power fol­low­ing a con­sti­tu­tional re­form that had shifted most power to the premier’s of­fice.

Thou­sands of pro­test­ers led by Pashinian thronged the cen­ter of the Ar­me­nian cap­i­tal, forc­ing Sargsyan to step down days later.

The for­mer pres­i­dent has kept a low pro­file and his Repub­li­can Party has largely re­mained on the de­fen­sive, re­luc­tantly sub­mit­ting to Pashinian’s de­mand to hold early par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

Dur­ing the month­long cam­paign, Pashinian has blasted mem­bers of the old elite as cor­rupt and pledged to re­vive the econ­omy, cre­ate new jobs and en­cour­age more Ar­me­ni­ans to re­turn home.

“We have car­ried out a po­lit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion, and now we must make an eco­nomic rev­o­lu­tion,” Pashinian said on a re­cent cam­paign trip.

“We set big and dif­fi­cult goals and we will achieve them, be­cause we are a pow­er­ful, vic­to­ri­ous free and happy na­tion.”

The Repub­li­can Party shot back at Pashinian, crit­i­ciz­ing what it de­scribed as his pop­ulist state­ments and di­vi­sive rhetoric.

“Pashinian has been un­able to solve so­cial problems, so he has turned to mak­ing shows,” snapped Ed­uard Shar­mazanov, who is a Repub­li­can Party mem­ber who served as deputy speaker.

Ar­me­nia has been weak­ened by an eco­nomic block­ade stem­ming from the con­flict over NagornoKarabakh, a re­gion of Azer­bai­jan that has been un­der the control of eth­nic Ar­me­nian forces backed by Ar­me­nia since the end of a six-year sep­a­ratist war in 1994.

Both Azer­bai­jan and Turkey have closed their bor­ders with Ar­me­nia over the con­flict, cut­ting trade and leav­ing Ar­me­nia in semi-iso­la­tion.

The coun­try has di­rect land ac­cess only to Ge­or­gia and Iran.

About one-third of Ar­me­nia’s pop­u­la­tion has moved to live and work abroad and re­mit­tances from those who have left ac­count for around 14 per­cent of the coun­try’s an­nual GDP.

Ar­me­nia is highly de­pen­dent on Rus­sia, which pro­vides loans and serves as the main source of im­ports and the top ex­port mar­ket.

Rus­sia has a mil­i­tary base in Ar­me­nia and sees re­la­tions with Yerevan as strate­gi­cally im­por­tant.

Pashinian has pledged to main­tain and strengthen ties with Moscow. The Krem­lin, which re­sented the protests that swept out un­pop­u­lar lead­ers of other ex-Soviet nations in the past, has re­sponded calmly to the abrupt change of power and has sought to es­tab­lish a di­a­logue with Pashinian.

“Ar­me­nia’s com­mit­ment to strong strate­gic re­la­tions with Rus­sia is in­tact,” Ar­me­nia’s For­eign Minister Zohrab Mnat­sakanyan told the As­so­ci­ated Press.

“We may have vary­ing ap­proaches to var­i­ous is­sues, but strate­gic partners are strate­gic partners.” –

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.