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Armenian leader Pashinyan secures landslide victory in parliamentary elections & pledges to deepen ties with Russian-led blocs

Armenian leader Pashinyan secures landslide victory in parliamentary elections & pledges to deepen ties with Russian-led blocs
Acting Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has declared victory in the country's snap parliamentary elections, held on Sunday. His populist Civil Contract party received nearly 54% of the vote after all ballots were counted.

The vote took place amid political turmoil that has gripped Armenia since last year’s disastrous Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which saw areas of the disputed region handed over to Azerbaijan as part of a peace agreement with Baku, brokered by Moscow.

The deal sparked mass protests, with the opposition blaming the Pashinyan government for what many saw as a surrender. In Sunday's contest, his chief opponent was the Armenian Alliance grouping, led by former President Robert Kocharyan, himself a native of the war-torn territory. 

The outcome of the election, however, suggested substantial support for the ruling Civil Contract, which received 53.92% of the vote. The result, however, won’t allow Pashinyan’s party to single-handedly form the government, as it fell short of its goal by a mere 0.08%. A party or a block must get at least 54% of the vote to have the right to exclusively lead a ruling unit, according to Armenia’s electoral laws.

The newly founded Armenia Alliance lagged behind with 21.04%, the country’s Central Election Commision reported on Monday after having counted 100% of the ballots.

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The threshold in Armenian elections is set at 5% for parties, and at 7% for blocs. A total of 21 parties and four blocs are vying for seats in the country’s legislature.

While all the other political parties and blocs came up short of their respective goals, the county’s law dictates that a third force must be present in parliament. The lucky loser is set to become the 'Pativ Unem' (I Have the Honor) bloc, run by another former Armenian president Serj Sargsyan and the former head of the National Security Service, Arthur Vetsanian. The opposition bloc received 5.23% of the vote.

After preliminary results put the Civil Contract party far ahead of the field, Pashinyan claimed victory in the poll. In a video address broadcast on Facebook, the acting PM said that his party was given a “steel mandate” to carry out a “steel revolution,” contrasting it with the Velvet Revolution of 2018, which propelled him into the PM's office. His ascent to power was preceded by mass protests against then-president Sargsyan.

"Victory in the parliamentary election will restore social and national consolidation. The people of Armenia have carried out a second revolution in three years,” Pashinyan said. 

Pashinyan expressed his gratitude to a number of countries and organizations that he said stood behind Armenia, including Russia, France, the US, the EU, Iran and Georgia. The politician also pledged to deepen ties with the members of regional blocs, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Both are essentially led by Moscow. “We are determined to develop and deepen our relations with these countries and will move in this direction," he explained. 

The CSTO is a NATO-style defensive organisation, with six members, including Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile, the EAEU has similarities to the European Union and contains five countries, the CSTO signatories minus Tajikistan. 

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While Pashinyan called on his supporters to gather for a celebratory rally, Kocharyan’s bloc cast doubt on the credibility of the preliminary results, citing alleged voting violations and accusing the ruling party of a plot to falsify the elections. 

The results are “in stark contrast to the various manifestations of public life we ​​have witnessed over the past eight months, to all public opinion polls, including international, and finally, to common sense,” the bloc said in a statement, cited by the media. Initial results, however, indicate that Kocharyan’s bloc gained ground on the centrist Civil Contract party in capital Yerevan, where it was leading with over 68%.

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