Armenia’s Election: Is a Coalition Government Possible?

The Republican Party of Armenian has been ruling the country since 1999, either single-handedly or in coalition with junior partners. The open question now is whether RPA will form the cabinet itself, something it is in a position to do, or will choose to create a coalition, Valdai Club expert Alexander Markarov says.

On April 2, 2017, Armenia held an election to the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia of the sixth calling. A total of 2009 polling stations were opened in the country. According to Tigran Mukuchyan, Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Armenia, 1,574,947 out of 2,587,706 voters took part in the polling. The turnout at the election was 60.86%.

According to the Constitutional Amendments adopted at the referendum on December 6, 2015, the National Assembly was for the first time elected exclusively on a proportional basis. The Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia establishes a 5% electoral barrier for parties and a 7% barrier for party blocs.

This is the first national election in the country after the constitutional reform referendum held in 2015. In addition to other changes, the constitutional reform initiated by President Serzh Sargsyan presumes the transition from a semi-presidential republic to a parliamentary form of governance. The figure of the president will turn into a symbol of Armenian statehood, but the president will not play a significant role in practical politics. The transition period will end after the expiration of the incumbent president's term of office in 2018.

The Constitution does not clearly stipulate the number of deputies – the National Assembly will consist of “at least 101 deputies” with mandatory guarantees of a stable majority. If no party is able to form a majority, a second round with the participation of two parties with the largest number of votes can be held.

The election attracted the attention of a significant number of observers from Armenia and abroad. Over 28,000 observers from 49 local public organizations and more than 640 observers from six international organizations – the OSCE/ODIHR, PACE, CIS, IPA CIS, OSCE PA and the European Parliament – followed the election.

The political palette of Armenia was represented by five parties and four party blocs: Free Democrats, Armenian Revival, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutyun, Republican Party of Armenia, Communist Party of Armenia, and party blocs – Yelk (Way Out), Tsarukyan, Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanyan, the Armenian National Congress – People’s Party of Armenia (Congress-ANC).

According to the Central Election Commission, four political forces are in the parliament. According to the preliminary results, RPA gets 49.12% of votes, the Tsarukyan bloc – 27.32%, Yelk – 7.77%, ARF Dashnaktsutyun – 6.57% respectively.

The position of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) looked generally preferable from the very beginning of the election campaign. In addition to its own image, experience and resources (financial, human, administrative), one can also point out the lack of unity among the opposition. RPA participated in the parliamentary elections under the slogan “Security and Progress.” Taking into account the situation in the region, the issue of development and strengthening of the security system is a priority for Armenia.

The ruling party was quite self-confident and had good reasons to hope on getting an absolute majority of seats in the first round and they did it: most likely, the Republican Party of Armenia will have about 55 legislators, of 54% of seats.

The oppositional forces that made it to the parliament include the Tsarukyan and Yelk blocs. The Tsarukyan bloc is centred around the figure of legislator Gagik Tsarukyan, head of the Prosperous Armenia party (PAP). Tsarukyan and PAP have complicated relationships with both government and opposition. PAP, established in 2004, made it to the parliament in 2007 with the second best result after RPA. In 2007-2012, PAP was part of the ruling coalition alongside RPA and in 2012, in decided to run as an “alternative opposition force.”

The Yelk bloc, established not long before the election, consists of the following parties: Republic, headed by Aram Sargsyan, Civil Contract, headed by Deputy Nikol Pashinyan, and Bright Armenia, headed by Deputy Edmon Marukyan. The bloc demanded change and peaceful political transition through elections and was to a certain extent perceived as a pro-Western political force.

Before the election, RPA said that it would name as its candidate for Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, who currently holds the post. RPA has been the ruling party since 1999, either single-handedly or in coalition with junior partners. The open question now is whether RPA will form the cabinet itself, something it is in a position to do, or will choose to create a coalition. Its possible coalition partner could by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), which has been part of coalition with RPA since 2016 and will also be represented in the parliament.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.