Pashinian Won His Gamble With Early Elections, but Will It Pay Off for Armenia Too?

Pashinian Won His Gamble With Early Elections, but Will It Pay Off for Armenia Too?
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, center, and his wife, Anna Akobian, leave a polling station during parliamentary elections, Yerevan, Armenia, Dec. 9, 2018 (Photo by Vahan Stepanyan for PAN Photo via AP Images).

YEREVAN, Armenia—Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s bid to consolidate his new government’s power paid off on Sunday, when his Civil Contract party won an overwhelming majority in early parliamentary elections that Pashinian had called last month. Civil Contract took 70 percent of the vote, while two moderate opposition parties cleared the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament. The outcome legitimizes Pashinian’s position seven months after coming to power, and dealt a knockout blow to the former ruling Republican Party, which finished with just 4.7 percent of the vote.

Pashinian, a former opposition leader, led a wave of popular protests earlier this year, backed by tens of thousands of demonstrators, that eventually forced the resignation of then-Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian last April. While the main trigger for the protests was Sarkisian’s decision to hold on to power as prime minister after a decade as president, Pashinian helped lead the demonstrations with both personal charisma and tactical acumen.

But despite deep popular support among the Armenian public, Pashinian since then has been engaged in a standoff with parliament, where Sarkisian’s Republican Party still controlled nearly half of the 101 seats. By contrast, Civil Contract had just nine. This standoff, complicated by Armenia’s recent switch to a parliamentary form of government, exacerbated the deep polarization of Armenian society and underscored the need for a legislature that reflects the country’s new political reality.

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