Political Shapeup: Armenia’s next parliament likely to have completely different look

Political Shapeup: Armenia’s next parliament likely to have completely different look

With only about a year remaining before Armenia’s next parliamentary elections, which are most likely to be held in April 2017, experts say that considerable changes are likely in the country’s political landscape by that time.

A comparison of the current political situation with that existing a year ago shows an almost complete transformation – the vanishing of “old” parties and emergence of new ones. What remains unchanged is the dominant position of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA). Though, the party of President Serzh Sargsyan also does not appear to feel fully confident and, according to many observers, had to strike a power-sharing deal with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF, Dashnaktsutyun) to reassure its political stability.

More than a year ago, in February 2015, the RPA leader, President Sargsyan effectively ousted then “non-governing” Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) leader Gagik Tsarukyan from politics. The PAP had been voted into the 2012 parliament as the second largest force, but after last year’s crackdown, it was hit by defections and is unlikely to be able to regroup in time for next year’s election and win any presence in the next legislature.

Another opposition parliamentary faction, Armenian National Congress (ANC), which has positioned itself as a radical “street” force, is also split and is also unlikely to get any significant presence or presence at all in the next parliament.

The ARF in February signed a political cooperation agreement with the RPA and thus left the opposition field and joined the power. This has given experts reasons to conclude that the party has secured a second place in the future parliament, after the RPA.

Over the past year or so three new parties have been established in Armenia – opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan created a party called Civil Contract, declaring itself to be an opposition force and setting itself the goal of achieving a change of power.

Non-aligned MP Edmon Marukyan established the “Bright Armenia” party, which is the only one of all the Armenian parties that has declared European values and the western way of development as its goals.

Former Parliament Speaker and Security Council Secretary Artur Baghdasarian, who led the Orinats Yerkir, declared its abolition and the creation of a new party “Armenian Renaissance”. A few days before the founding congress of the party one of the Russian newspapers published an interview with Baghdasaryan in which the latter expressed readiness of Armenia to fight for Russia against Turkey. The interview was perceived by many in Armenia negatively, as betrayal of the country’s national interests, and some experts brushed aside the establishment of the party as a failure, calling Armenian Renaissance a “Russian project”.

Union of Armenians of Russia President Ara Abrahamyan and ex-Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian have also announced their intentions to set up political parties. However, it is not excluded that they will prefer to be “late”, not in time for the 2017 elections.

The New Armenia movement, to which the Heritage has joined, has not been turned into a party yet. The group is waging a radical struggle for a change of power, but only “in the street.”

Thus, one can assume that the next Armenian parliament will have a very different structure that will be different from the current one and all previous ones. Now the parliament has six factions. In the next parliament analysts see an RPA-Dashnaktsutyun coalition that will occupy the right-nationalist wing. Opposition parties “Civil Contract” and “Bright Armenia” also have all chances to make it into parliament, with “Bright Armenia” likely to continue to espouse pro-Western policies. So far, Sargsyan has almost lacked opponents who would go against the pro-Russian policy. Baghdasaryan’s party may take a “radical pro-Russian” stance.

In fact, if before the balance of forces in parliament was based around the “presidential triangle”, with the political parties divided mainly according to the loyalty to the “three Armenian presidents” (the incumbent one and his two predecessors), this time it is the foreign policy orientation that may become the basis for the new lineup of forces in the Armenian National Assembly.