Mon, 21 Jan 2019
2
Dublin

YEREVAN -- Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's My Step alliance has built a massive lead in Armenia's snap parliamentary elections, capturing more than 70 percent of the vote with more than 50 percent of ballots counted.

Results from 1,217 of the 2,010 polling stations show that the alliance's closest rival is the Prosperous Armenia Party of wealthy businessman Gagik Tsarukian, which has 8.5 percent of the vote.

The liberal, pro-Western Bright Armenia, a party led by former Pashinian ally Edmon Marukian, is in third place with 6.35 percent of the vote.

The former ruling Republican Party (HHK) has 4.42 percent, while Dashnaktsutyun has 4.22 percent, slightly below the 5 percent threshold generally needed to enter parliament.

The final results of the December 9 vote are expected within the next 24 hours.

The Central Election Commission said that, according to preliminary data, turnout was 48.6 percent, some 12 percent lower than the previous parliamentary elections in April 2017.

Speaking live on Facebook during the day, Pashinian explained the lower turnout by saying that "during the 2017 and other elections [held during the HHK's time in power], people were bused to polling stations according to lists and [were made to vote] through mechanisms that you know all too well."

"Such mechanisms have not been used and cannot be used now," Pashinian added.

The election, in which some 2.6 million Armenians were eligible to vote, was observed by monitors of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The voting took place nine months after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protests that led to a peaceful change of government and ignited new hopes of more democratic rule.

'After the elections, we will be developing Armenian democracy and make an economic revolution happen,' Pashinian told reporters after casting his ballot.

"We have already achieved our main goal: to hold truly free, transparent, democratic elections," Pashinian said. "For the future, our main goal is to strengthen democracy in Armenia at the institutional level."

It was Pashinian, a former anticorruption journalist, who led the demonstrations that forced long-entrenched leader Serzh Sarkisian to step down from office.

Pashinian was eventually elected to the prime minister's post, although the Republican Party (HHK) maintained its majority in parliament.

Vigen Sarkisian: "I expect that, by the end of the day, we will have a more consolidated society." (file photo)

Pashinian announced in October that he was resigning from the post in order to dissolve parliament and force early elections. He has continued to perform his prime-ministerial duties until a new parliament and prime minister are elected.

Pashinian pushed for early parliamentary elections following his bloc's landslide victory in the mayoral race in the capital, Yerevan, in a bid to unseat the HHK.

The election saw the HHK and nine other political parties and alliances vying for seats in the 101-member National Assembly.

The list of candidates of the HHK is headed by former Defense Minister Vigen Sarkisian, who urged Armenians to "get out and vote.'

"I expect that, by the end of the day, we will have a more consolidated society," he said after voting in the Armenian capitol.

"I voted today for an Armenia where no one will ever allow the idea that society can be divided into whites and blacks. Because this would lead to the formation of an internal enemy, and the internal enemy in a besieged fortress is the worst that can happen."

SEE ALSO: Armenia's Elections Test Its Democratic Credentials

Vigen Sarkisian is no relation to Serzh Sarkisian, who served 10 years as president before assuming the prime minister's post in an effort to remain in power. Serzh Sarkisian is not running in the election.

The results, if confirmed, are in line with a Gallup poll conducted between December 1 and December 4 among 1,100 voters, which put the My Step Alliance well ahead of all other parties with 69.4 percent.

'Thanks to the revolution, we will finally have fair elections,' Parzik Avetisian, 72 told AFP news agency. 'I voted for the positive change promised by Nikol [Pashinian].'

Garnik Arakelian, a 52-year-old painter, told AFP that 'I want all those corrupt officials who for many years were robbing and humiliating people to be jailed.'

However, Saak Mkhitarian, a 37-year-old video engineer, told the Associated Press that he was worried about what he called Pashinian's divisive rhetoric.

'He wants to create an internal enemy and hates those who don't share his beliefs,' Mkhitarian said.

Pashinian during the campaign stressed the need to end government corruption and improve the economy to cut the nation's high unemployment rate.

He also vowed to maintain close relations with traditional ally Russia, while at the same time said he will seek closer ties with the United States and the European Union.

With reporting by AFP and AP RFE/RL's Armenian Service

RFE/RL's Armenian Service has been a consistent and dependable provider of independent information in Armenia for over 50 years. Today, it is a trusted source of information and regularly cited and reprinted by local media.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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