Acting Armenian Prime Minister holds power, strengthens authority despite military defeat
- Acting Prime Minister Pashinyan’s party wins 53.92% of the vote – results
- Former President Kocharyan’s bloc takes 21.04%
- Pashinyan was under pressure following a military defeat
- Results suggest he successfully renewed his tenure
MOSCOW, June 21 (Reuters) – Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan retained power in parliamentary elections that bolstered his authority despite being widely blamed for a military defeat last year in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, according to Monday’s results.
Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party won 53.92% of the vote cast in Sunday’s early elections, according to preliminary results. Former President Robert Kocharyan’s Armenian Alliance trailed 21.04% and questioned the outcome, the Interfax news agency reported.
The government has called elections in an attempt to end a political crisis that began when ethnic Armenian forces ceded territory to Azerbaijan in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in fighting last year.
Six weeks of hostilities have raised international concern as the wider South Caucasus region is a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to global markets. It is also a geopolitical arena where Russia, the United States, the European Union and Turkey scramble to influence.
Pashinyan, 46, faced street protests after the defeat and called for his resignation over the terms of a peace deal under which Azerbaijan regained control of the territory it had lost during the defeat. ‘a war in the early 1990s.
While Pashinyan called the deal a disaster, he said he was forced to sign it to avoid greater loss of life and territory.
He wrote on Twitter Monday that his party would have a constitutional majority – at least 71 out of 105 MPs – and “form a government led by me.”
Pashinyan said Armenia will strengthen ties with the Russian-led regional groups, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSC) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
“We are determined to work on improving, deepening and developing relations (with the CSTO and EAEU countries), and we will certainly move in that direction,” the agency said. Russian press RIA quoting Pashinyan in a speech posted on Facebook.
Armenia, home to a Russian military base, is an ally of Moscow although relations were colder under Pashinyan, who came to power following street protests and as part of an anti-corruption program. in 2018.
Another regional power, Turkey, has supported Azerbaijan in last year’s conflict and is closely monitoring developments in Armenia.
THE KOCHARYAN BLOCK RAISES QUESTIONS
Pashinyan went to a cemetery on Monday to lay flowers at the graves of soldiers killed in last year’s conflict.
The final election results will be announced within a week, said Tigran Mukuchyan, chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), as quoted by Interfax. He said the results gave Pashinyan the right to form a government on his own.
Opinion polls have put Pashinyan’s party and Kocharian’s Armenian Alliance neck and neck.
“These results (of the elections) contradict the processes of public life that we have observed over the past eight months,” the alliance said in a statement, relayed by Interfax.
She said she did not recognize the results and had started consultations with other parties to organize a collective appeal to the Constitutional Court of Armenia, RIA reported.
Speaking at a rally in Yerevan on Monday evening, Pashinyan reached out to his rivals with an offer of reconciliation.
“I will begin political consultations with the political forces which took part in the elections and which are ready for a constructive dialogue”, he declared, quoting Interfax.
Kocharyan is from Nagorno-Karabakh. The enclave is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but a large part of the population is of Armenian origin.
Kocharyan was President of Armenia from 1998 to 2008 and was accused of acting illegally when he instituted a state of emergency in March 2008 after contested elections and at least 10 people were killed in clashes between police and demonstrators.
International observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said the elections were competitive and generally well-run.
“However, they were characterized by intense polarization and marred by increasingly inflammatory rhetoric among the main candidates,” he said in a statement.
There were 319 reports of voting irregularities, RIA reported. The CEC said the elections were largely in line with legal standards and observers from a CIS monitoring mission said the vote was open and fair, Interfax reported.
Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Dmitry Antonov; additional reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy; Writing by Alexander Marrow / Andrew Osborn; Edited by Timothy Heritage
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