Friday, 14 December 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Elections was 60%- 84%

TASS, Russia
Dec 9 2018
Voter turnout at Armenia’s early parliamentary polls reaches 48.63%
Armenia’s Central Election Commission added that the voter turnout at the previous parliamentary elections was 60.84%

The voter turnout at Armenia’s early parliamentary polls on Sunday was 48.63%, chief of the country’s Central Election Commission Tigran Mukuchyan said.

"According to preliminary data, as many as 1,260,840 people, or 48.63% of eligible voters, took part in the voting," he said, adding that the voter turnout at the previous parliamentary elections in April 2017 was 60.84%
Polling stations closed at 20:00 local time (19:00 Moscow time).

The Armenian law does not stipulate any voter turnout threshold and the election will be recognized as valid even if the figure is low.
No exit polls are allowed to be published until the vote ends in the country.
Nine parties and two blocs are vying for seats in the parliament. A party needs to score at least five percent of the vote, while a bloc is required to have at least seven percent to win seats in the national legislature.

The Associated Press
December 9, 2018 Sunday 8:49 PM GMT
Armenia premier's bloc winning vote, early returns show

Early returns from Armenia's snap parliamentary election Sunday show the country's new prime minister's bloc with a commanding lead - an outcome that would help further consolidate his power.

The charismatic 43-year-old Nikol Pashinian took office in May after
spearheading massive protests that forced his predecessor to step
down. Pashinian has pushed for early vote to win control of a
parliament that was dominated by his political foes.

An ex-journalist turned politician, Pashinian has won broad
popularity, tapping into public anger over widespread poverty, high
unemployment and rampant corruption in the landlocked former Soviet
nation of 3 million that borders Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran.

With 185 out of the nation's 2,010 precincts counted, Pashinian's My
Step was garnering 66 percent of the vote, while the Republican Party
that controlled the old parliament was a distant fourth with just
under 4 percent, struggling to overcome a 5-percent barrier to make it
into parliament. The pro-business Prosperous Armenia party was coming
second with about 11 percent of the ballot, and the nationalist
Dashnaktsutyun party was winning about 8 percent.

By the time the polls closed at 8 p.m. (1600 GMT, 11 a.m. EST), 49
percent of the nation's eligible voters cast ballots. Full preliminary
results are expected Monday.

Pashinian exuded confidence after casting his ballot in Yerevan,
saying that he was sure that his bloc will win a majority in

During the monthlong campaign, Pashinian has blasted members of the
old elite as corrupt and pledged to revive the economy, create new
jobs and encourage more Armenians to return home.

"An economic revolution is our top priority," Pashinian told reporters Sunday.

Armenia has suffered from an economic blockade stemming from the
conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan that has been
under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since
the end of a six-year separatist war in 1994. Attempts to negotiate a
peace settlement have stalled and fighting has occasionally flared up
between ethnic Armenian forces and Azerbaijan's soldiers.

Both Azerbaijan and Turkey have closed their borders with Armenia over
the conflict, cutting trade and leaving Armenia in semi-isolation. The
country has direct land access only to Georgia and Iran.

About one-third of Armenia's population has moved to live and work
abroad and remittances from those who have left account for around 14
percent of the country's annual GDP.

After seven months on the job, Pashinian has remained widely popular,
particularly among the young.

"Pashinian has put fresh blood in our veins. I believe in the future
of Armenia," said computer expert Grigor Meliksetian, 24.

Others weren't so optimistic.

Bella Nazarian, an entrepreneur, said Pashinian has skillfully
manipulated public hopes.

"He's a populist and a liar," she said. "I believe that people's eyes
will open as early as the coming spring."

Saak Mkhitarian, 37, a video engineer, said he was worried about what
he described as Pashinian's divisive rhetoric.

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

Pashinian was the driving force behind the protests that erupted in
April when Serzh Sargsyan, who had served as Armenia's president for a
decade, moved into the prime minister's seat, a move seen by critics
as an attempt to hold on to power. Thousands of protesters led by
Pashinian thronged the Armenian capital, and Sargsyan resigned after
only six days on the job.

Sargsyan has stayed out of the public eye since stepping down and
refused to answer reporters' questions after voting Sunday. His
Republican Party has largely remained on the defensive.

The Sunday Times (London), UK
December 9, 2018 SundayLeader of Velvet Revolution is favourite to win Armenian poll
by  Louise Callaghan,  Yerevan
In a bustling wine bar in Yerevan, a group of young Armenians clinked their glasses in celebration. All through the capital of this once-dreary Soviet backwater, bars and restaurants were filling up.
"It was too exciting not to be here," said Aimee Keushguerian, 25, who moved here from Tuscany two years ago to run a wine company with her father.
Like her friends, she is a repatriate - an ethnic Armenian raised in the diaspora, who has come to Yerevan to be part of the extraordinary wave of change coursing through this tiny piece of the former USSR.
Still scarred by memories of historical atrocities, war with neighbouring Azerbaijan and crippling economic problems, Armenia is holding what is being billed as its first free and fair election today.
The vote follows street protests in April that swept away the post-Soviet elite in a peaceful "Velvet Revolution".
On Friday, a stalwart of the old regime, former president Robert Kocharyan, was arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.
The frontrunner to win the election is Nikol Pashinyan, an MP and former journalist who led the April revolt. He became interim prime minister but stepped down to campaign for a democratic mandate today.
Unlike similar protests in Ukraine and neighbouring Georgia, Armenia's Velvet Revolution was not overtly anti-Russian or pro-western, and Pashinyan courts both Moscow and the West.
"In terms of values he aligns to Europe; in terms of the country's economic and security issues he aligns with Russia," a diplomat said.
He has little choice. Russia has a military base here as well as vital economic and security links, giving it a tight strategic hold over this landlocked country with a population of 3m.
Pashinyan has met the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, several times this year but has also met EU leaders.
More than anything, his allies say, he is aware that the country needs money - from East or West. Some public sector workers, who formerly took bribes, want wage rises now that honesty is the rule.
His economic policies centre on recovering wealth from the old elite. Their convoys of blacked-out cars have vanished from Yerevan's wide boulevards.
"We've already been doing things differently," 43-year-old Pashinysan told The Sunday Times last week, adding: "The first point of our agenda is to encourage our people to be self-confident ... to change their own lives."
Pashinyan has sold himself on his clean-cut credentials in contrast to the corruption and voter fraud rampant under the old regime.
Supporters and critics alike, however, worry that he is a protest politician, ill-equipped to rule. Diplomats and analysts in the country repeatedly described his administration as "chaotic". His chief of staff only recently gave up his day job as a DJ - though his skills have proved adept at calming angry crowds.
Although Pashinyan calls himself a man of the people, few in his administration appeared to have direct access to him. A cult of personality is emerging around him - his picture is on the walls of corner shops, his name is spoken with unusual reverence.
"I love him," said Sara Anjargolian, who was born in London and moved to Armenia in 2006. "The former government created this bubble around themselves. The corruption was absurd. What Pashinyan has done is brilliant."
Millennials were a driving force in the revolution, setting Facebook alive with slogans, mobilising after online calls from Pashinyan. Politicians say 250,000 took to the streets in April and May in what became a carnival in the streets of Yerevan.
But his appeal transcends generations. At a rally last week in Etchmiadzin, a small town home to what locals say is the world's oldest cathedral, a crowd of children, professionals and the cloth-capped elderly cheered as Pashinyan promised to smash the power of the oligarchs.
Away from the wine bars of Yerevan, much of Armenia is desperately poor. Roads are barely passable in the autumn rain, and around a third of the country lives in poverty.
"There is still a lot to be done," said Hamazasp Danielyan, a political scientist who is running for parliament for Pashinyan's party.
"There is hope. And some of the expectations are unrealistically high. But one of the most tangible changes is that now people think their actions can have an effect." 

Agence France Presse
December 9, 2018 Sunday 
Armenia votes in snap polls to cement reform drive

Armenians voted Sunday in parliamentary elections triggered years
ahead of schedule by reformist leader Nikol Pashinyan, who is aiming
to cement his political authority in the post-Soviet country.

The 43-year-old former journalist became prime minister in May after
spearheading weeks of peaceful anti-government rallies that ousted
veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian.

He has pledged to root out endemic corruption and address widespread
poverty, earning him supporters in the impoverished landlocked nation
of about three million people.

"After the elections, we will be developing Armenian democracy and
make an economic revolution happen," Pashinyan told reporters after
casting his ballot, pledging to "hold free, fair, and transparent

Pashinyan's reform drive had been stalled for months by opposition
from Sarkisian's ruling party, which dominated the National Assembly
until his calculated resignation triggered parliament's dissolution
last month.

At a polling station in central Yerevan voters expressed optimism
about the political change promised by Pashinyan and vented their
anger at former corrupt officials.

"Thanks to the revolution, we will finally have fair elections,"
72-year-old pensioner Parzik Avetisyan told AFP.

"I voted for the positive change promised by Nikol (Pashinyan)," he added.

Another voter, 52-year-old painter Garnik Arakelyan, said: "I want all
those corrupt officials who for many years were robbing and
humiliating people to be jailed."

Turnout was 39.54 percent by 5:00 pm (1300 GMT), eight hours after
polls opened, the central election commission said.

Pashinyan's party is expected to garner a majority in the new
legislature, allowing him to push ahead with his campaign to reshape
the South Caucasus nation's political landscape and spark an "economic

"Pashinyan's party is likely to take a dominant position in the newly
elected parliament and to get all the levers they need to step up
promised economic and political reforms," analyst Gevorg Poghosyan
told AFP.

Last week, Pashinyan -- who is acting prime minister -- promised "the
best elections Armenia has ever seen", without ballot stuffing or
voter intimidation.

- 'Revolutionary euphoria' -

Parliamentary elections had not been scheduled to be held until 2022.

Analysts say Pashinyan sought new elections while he is at the peak of
his popularity.

In September, his bloc had a landslide victory in municipal elections,
winning more than 80 percent of the vote in the capital Yerevan, where
nearly 40 percent of the former Soviet Republic's population lives.

"The elections were called on the wave of a revolutionary euphoria,"
Poghosyan told AFP.

"But after the polls, that sentiment will inevitably weaken and
Pashinyan and his team will face a reality check."

On foreign policy, Pashinyan has said Armenia will "further strengthen
(our) strategic alliance with Russia and, at the same time, step up
cooperation with the United States and European Union".

Nine political parties and two electoral blocs are competing for
mandates in the 101-seat National Assembly.

A party needs at least five percent of the votes to be elected to
parliament, while an electoral bloc must clear a seven-percent

But -- regardless of how many votes they win -- opposition parties
will take at least 30 percent of parliamentary seats, according to
Armenia's electoral law.

More than 2.6 million people were eligible to vote in the election
monitored by international observers from the Organisation for
Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Polls opened at 0400 GMT and closed at 1600 GMT. Results are expected
to be released in the early hours on Monday.
9 December, 2018
Over 17 thousand local and 505 international observes followed parliamentary elections in Armenia

17 thousand and 813 observers of local NGOs and 505 observers of international organizations carried out an observer mission during Armenia’s early parliamentary elections, ARMENPRESS reports head of the press service of the CEC Tatev Gevorgyan said.

The responsibilities f the observers will be over on the 8th day after summing up the official results of the elections if they are not appealed in court. The observers can present their observations to the CEC in the form of reports, which will be posted in the website of the CEC.
Edited and translated by Tigran Sirekanyan

RFE/RL Report
Armenia Elects New Parliament
December 09, 2018
Narine Ghalechian
Naira Nalbandian
Gayane Saribekian
Ruzanna Stepanian

Voters in Armenia cast ballots on Sunday in snap parliamentary elections held more than seven months after mass protests that brought down the country’s former government.

The My Step alliance of Nikol Pashinian, the protest leader who became prime minister in May, was widely expected to win the elections by a landslide. It was challenged by ten other political forces, including the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) headed by Serzh Sarkisian, Pashinian’s deposed predecessor.

Sarkisian chose not to run for the parliament, leaving it to his former top aide, Vigen Sargsian, to head the HHK’s list of candidates.

Among other major election contenders were businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK) and the Bright Armenia party that was until recently allied to Pashinian.

The 11 groups were vying for at least 101 seats in the National Assembly distributed under a complex system of proportional representation. Armenians voted for not only a party or bloc but also their individual candidates running in nationwide constituencies.

The parties have to win at least 5 percent of the vote in order to be represented in the new parliament. The legal vote threshold for alliances is set at 7 percent.

Shortly after the more than 2,000 polling stations across Armenia opened early in the morning Pashinian urged voters to brave a rainy and snowy weather and turn out in large numbers. In a live Facebook address aired a few hours later, he expressed concern at early signs that turnout is lower than it was in the last legislative elections held in 2017.

Speaking to reporters outside at a polling station in Yerevan, Pashinian implied that he expects My Step to win a comfortable parliament majority. He dismissed suggestions that its landslide victory and weak opposition presence in the legislature would not bode well Armenia’s democratization.

“This is what democracy is all about,” he said. “The people decide who should be in power and who shouldn’t.”

“Democracy is our general goal and I think we have achieved our goal,” declared Pashinian.

The HHK’s Sargsian also called for high voter turnout after casting a ballot elsewhere in Yerevan. “The last thing one can do today is to stay at home,” he said. “One must turn out … and consciously vote for the political force with which you associate the country’s future, whether it’s the incumbent government or a force acting as its counterweight.”

“My second expectation is that we will have a more consolidated society at the end of the day,” added the former defense minister.

Sargsian, whose party had for years been accused of rigging elections and buying votes, also expressed hope that the official election results will be “acceptable to everyone.”

Serzh Sarkisian, who ruled Armenia from 2008-2018, voted early in the afternoon at a Yerevan school gym turned into a polling place. He smiled and joked with some election officials there. The 64-year-old former president, who has kept a very low profile since his resignation in April, refused to answer any questions from journalists.

Meanwhile, Tsarukian called on Armenian parties to stop “slinging mud at each other” and to focus on concrete solutions to the country’s problems. “If we want things to get better, we must be united,” the tycoon told reporters outside a polling station in a village just outside Yerevan where he was born and lives.

Pashinian last month pledged to ensure that the December 9 elections are the most democratic in Armenia’s history. He instructed law-enforcement to crack down hard on anyone who would try to buy votes or exert undue pressure on voters.

The chief of the Armenian police, Valeri Osipian, issued corresponding warnings to election candidates when he toured various parts of the country in the run-up to the vote.

Osipian said on Sunday that other police officers also took “preventive” measures against fraud and vote buying during the election campaign. “I think they did a very good job,” he said after voting for a “good Armenia.”

HHK leaders said during the campaign that in some parts of the country police officials are summoning HHK activists and trying to intimidate them. The police denied that.

The HHK as well as some BHK representatives have also accused Pashinian’s bloc of abusing its administrative resources. In particular, they have claimed that Armenia’s provincial governors have pressured town and village mayors to earn My Step many votes.

Pashinian dismissed the allegations, saying that the governors, almost all of them running for the parliament on the My Step ticket, conducted their election campaigns in a lawful manner. He insisted that the elections are “really, free transparent and democratic.”

According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), the polls were monitored by over 500 foreign observers. Most of them were deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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