Post-Referendum Reality: Analyst says opposition parties run the risk of losing parliamentary seats

Post-Referendum Reality: Analyst says opposition parties run the risk of losing parliamentary seats

Erik Baghdasaryan

After the announcement of the final results of the constitutional referendum most political forces in Armenia appear to be directing their actions at the next parliamentary elections due in 2017, which is likely to stand out by particularly severe struggle among opposing parties and groups.

Analysts believe that much will depend on the adoption of a new Electoral Code in the coming months. Nevertheless, the chances of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia with its perceived administrative resources are hardly questioned. So, the opposition will be fighting for the votes of the “non-government” electorate.

“At this moment by their potential the extra-parliamentary forces may lay claims on the seats currently held in parliament by the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) and Heritage parties. The matte concerns about a fifth of votes,” independent political analyst Erik Baghdasaryan told ArmeniaNow, adding that he no longer regards the ANC and Heritage as main opposition parties.

According to the expert, these two parties that have been involved in the “No” campaign in the December 6 constitutional referendum have undergone serious internal changes and under the amended Constitution that turns Armenia into a parliamentary republic are running the risk of losing their current parliamentary seats to a number of currently extra-parliamentary forces that are fighting for entering the legislature.

Baghdasaryan thinks that the positions of Heritage positions have been weakened by the party’s involvement in the New Armenia movement that embraces a number of forces, including the Founding Parliament.

Founding Parliament representative Jirair Sefilian has already stated that they are not going to participate in the next parliamentary elections, but will continue their struggle “against the regime”. In his public statements Sefilian said that they want “to give Armenians the gift of an Armenia without [president] Serzh Sargsyan in 2016”. But the number of people attending New Armenia’s rallies in Yerevan is dwindling, which, in some observers’ opinion, also reduces the chances of those involved in the movement in future electoral processes.

The ANC and its “No” front have adopted a different tactic and plan to challenge the results of the referendum at the Constitutional Court. They believe the “No” votes won in the December 6 referendum. Now, ANC representatives also attach importance to increasing their ability to exercise control over voting processes to ensure a clean vote at next elections.

To have seats in the next National Assembly the Civil Contract Party founded by Nikol Pashinyan, who formally remains a member of the ANC faction, and the Bright Armenia party formed by Edmon Marukyan, a non-aligned MP, show activeness, too.

“Now it is difficult to say whether they have a chance or not. But one thing is clear: these forces have presented a bid to replace the ANC and the Heritage,” says Baghdasaryan.

According to the expert, there will be aspirants for the Prosperous Armenia and the Orinats Yerkir parties’ seats in parliament, but already with other political will and financial resources. “Such a force has already appeared in the form of Russian-Armenian tycoon Ara Abrahamian’s application, and there will be other applications as well. In general, except for the Republican Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, other political forces need to come up with a new format, if they want to succeed.”

“But if there is a success to mobilize active civil masses on the one hand and on the other hand to have financial assistance, under the new constitution there is a chance of repeating last elections’ model in Georgia,” concludes Baghdasaryan, referring to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s victory and Mikhail Saakashvili’s defeat in Georgia in 2012.

Unlike Baghdasaryan, Stepan Danielyan, the head of the Cooperation for Democracy Center, believes in the potential of the society, rather than the opposition.

“There is a chance, if they work in the right way, and if they put the right issues in front of them. Much will depend on the content of the Electoral Code. The real political process should develop around its content.”

“The referendum showed that civil society representatives have vigor. They can arrange everything. The right structure just should be given to the fight and to lead it through a right path. It will be of many people’s interests to sponsor them,” Danielyan told ArmeniaNow.