Opinion: After May 6, is a presidential election redundant?

Opinion: After May 6, is a presidential election redundant?

Photo: www.president.am

The Republican Party of Armenia has walked away with the country after yesterday, apparently gaining 69 seats in the next National Assembly. RPA 69. Everybody Else 62. It is a stunning development, coming about per a turnout of 62 percent of voters.

The conclusion defies real-world pattern. Following five years of economic decline, the Armenian public turned out en masse to re-elect leadership that didn’t manage to progress beyond survival, while from Britain’s Gordon Brown to France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, heads are being lopped in other elections on the world-economic-crisis landscape.

Why? What makes Armenia different? The effectiveness of widespread vote-buying may be one answer. The absence of believable alternatives to the current regime may be another.

How this happened will be dissected by scientists in coming May 6 postmortems. The effect of what has happened will become clear in the gestation period for next winter’s presidential campaign, which begins now.

RPA no longer needs a coalition. Not even, as a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current sidekick to Prosperous Armenia Party boss Gagik Tsurakyan says is “one of a formal nature”. If RPA was obliged to play well with others in the tinder-box aftermath of Armenia’s 2008 election, the party now owns the playground, the toys and the lock to the gates.

The party of President Serzh Sargsyan owns the portfolio on every ministerial position, and with what is likely to be a 3-over-majority grip on the National Assembly, why would other parties even bother to show up to vote on any act of legislature the Prime Minister would bring to the floor?

If what existed before Sunday of anti-RPA sentiment could have been called “opposition” it can now simply and finally be defined as irrelevant. Its leader, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, went from being the voice crying in the wilderness, to being the tree that fell in the forest and nobody heard it. Ter-Petrosyan’s 14-party bloc, the ANC, barely made it onto the upcoming parliament roster. It gained seven percent of the vote. Half a percent per party – 10 times per party weaker than Heritage, whose leader Ter-Petrosyan dissed as being mis-directed a year ago.

Going into Sunday, it was widely believed that this would be a vote in which PAP would cut into RPA's dominance. Rather, just the opposite has happened and now, what do you do if you are Tsarukyan? Even the strongest man in Armenia – figuratively and, once, literally – has to know his place against a political machine that cannot be arm-wrestled into submission.

And what of Tsarukyan’s political godfather, former president Robert Kocharyan? He emerged in a rare interview a few days before the election, to tantalize analysts’ palates. Will he run for office in 2013? What place would Vartan Oskanian have on a Kocharyan ticket? Whatever decisions might have gone into answering those questions, probably became more gnarly when the Central Election Commission shut the doors and opened the boxes Sunday night.

Was Sunday’s election a referendum on public approval for Serzh Sargsyan?

With a government in his pocket, apathy on his side, and party members willing to persuade voters $25 at a time, does approval matter?