Elections in Armenia

A short comment by Prof. Ronald Grigor Suny on the elections in Armenia

In the bleak post-Soviet space, where autocrats and oligarchs enrich themselves and repress the aspirations of ordinary people, little Armenia has lit a light for democracy. The Velvet Revolution of 2019 overthrew decades of dominance by a mafia-like regime of corrupt politicians who had refused to think creatively about the dangers facing their tiny, besieged republic. They had failed to use the opportunity offered by their victory in the early 1990s in Karabakh to find a compromise solution with their enemies. The catastrophic effect of their short-sightedness was the disastrous defeat in the short war in the fall of 2020. Understandably, in its aftermath Armenians were confused and despairing, and many turned on the government of Nigol Pashinyan, which had failed to defend Karabakh. Pashinyan refused to resign, even under pressure from elite figures, including the Catholicos, and powerful forces in the diaspora. Instead, he gambled by calling early parliamentary elections.

A week ago, it was still unclear if the old oligarchs and former presidents, led by Robert Kocharyan and his allies, including the nearly moribund Dashnaktsutyun, would prevail and return to power. But, instead, the Armenian people gave the democratic forces a new lease on life. Pashinyan won almost 54 percent of the vote. This was a clear sign that Haiastantsis had chosen a democratic path, however precarious and unpredictable that would be. 

Dangers lie ahead. Armenia has lost much of its sovereignty. It is more dependent than ever on its erstwhile undependable ally Russia. Azerbaijan and Turkey have forged a firm alliance aimed at increasing their power in the South Caucasus. Within Armenia almost half the population is suspicious of Pashinyan, fearful of the changes that may disrupt business as usual. But there are reasons for some limited optimism. Young people rallied to the democratic cause and are prepared to fight for a different future for Armenia. This is a time for sober, sensible understanding that Armena has no other choice than democracy. Autocracy and plutocracy are roads to ruin.