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Armenia’s snap election preserves precarious democracy


Despite 2020’s military defeat, Armenia’s fragile institutions are the real winner of Sunday’s poll, but now face the challenge of dominant power politics.

Armenia’s snap election was extraordinary in many ways. A record number of parties and blocs contested the ballot – including all of Armenia’s former presidents dating back to 1991. After a bitter campaign, the scale of Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party’s win came as a surprise, with Civil Contract securing an outright 54 per cent of the vote – a majority obviating the need for tense coalition negotiations or a second round of voting.

Although the presence of old faces seemed to preserve the polarity between new and old elites, which was key to 2018’s Velvet Revolution that brought Pashinyan to power, the grand coalition that made the revolution possible had begun to fray.

This fragility is largely due to Armenia’s calamitous defeat in the 2020 Nagorny Karabakh war, which dramatically exposed Armenia’s vulnerabilities as around 4,000 Armenians were killed in action and Armenian forces lost control over most of the territories they had won from Azerbaijan back in the 1990s.

After signing a ceasefire many in Armenia saw as capitulatory, calls for Pashinyan to resign quickly ensued. But the country’s deeply unpopular opposition baulked at his initial offer of elections in December 2020 and a new election was only finally agreed following public recriminations over responsibility for the defeat in Karabakh between Pashinyan and the army’s General Staff.

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