Armenia is a country located in the region of Western Asia. After the turn of the millennium, the nationalist and right-wing Republican Party (HKK) established itself as a state-bearing party with great influence. Several waves of protest against the party’s authoritarian policies strengthened opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan, not least since he launched a campaign against corruption. Pashinyan succeeded in pushing a new election to also get his supporters as the majority in parliament, and since 2018 he has popular support as head of government.
The Republican Party can be said to have fallen on its own grip. The popular dissatisfaction with its government policy was great, but the party started a carousel on the leading positions, intended to let its strong man retain power. The plan failed. Instead, it led to a “velvet revolution” and a shift in power.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Armenia, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
The dissatisfaction had been simmering for several years. Already the 2012 parliamentary elections took place in a tense political situation and were preceded by demonstrations against alleged corruption and abuse of power by the Republican Party. The election result gave a strong dominance for two parties. The Republican Party gained its own majority. In second place came Liberal Conservative A successful Armenia.
In the 2013 presidential election, none of the major opposition parties even bothered to challenge incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan, who was declared victor in the first round with over 58 percent of the vote. Overall, OSCE observers approved the election, but the election’s second Raffi Hovhannisyan, who received 36 percent of the votes, accused the Election Commission of cheating.
In early 2014, widespread popular protests erupted against a new law that said people born after 1974 from 2015 onwards would deposit five percent of their income into private pension funds. The law was perceived by government critics as a way for the authorities to access their money. In April, the Constitutional Court announced that pension reform must be changed and shortly thereafter Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan resigned, who received harsh criticism for the reform. Hovik Abrahamyan, Deputy Chairman of the Republican Party, was appointed new head of government.
In the fall of 2014, new protests erupted and more than 10,000 opposition supporters demonstrated against the government for its inability to curb poverty and corruption. Concerns continued in 2015 when demonstrations were organized against a planned increase in electricity prices.
More power to Parliament
In December 2015, a referendum was held in which 63 percent of the voters said yes to the constitution being amended so that a large part of the president’s power is transferred to Parliament (see Political system). More than half of the voters participated in the vote. The opposition argued that the amendment intended that President Serzh Sargsyan be able to retain power after his term of office by taking over the post of Prime Minister 2018. Accusations of electoral fraud were supported by observers from the Council of Europe.
Following a hostage raid on a police station that claimed two lives in the summer of 2016, President Serzh Sargsyan promised to form a unifying government, and in September, Yerevan’s former mayor Karen Karapetyan was appointed new head of government. Karapetyan had a past job as a senior manager at the Russian gas company Gazprom and was considered to have good relations with the Russian government.
On April 2, 2017, the first parliamentary elections were held with the new electoral rules. The Republican Party won by more than 49 percent of the vote. A valiant alliance dominated by A successful Armenia gained just over 27 percent. The Valallians Way Out – where Pashinian’s party was included – and Dasjnak managed the five percent block with each around seven percent of the vote. The OSCE observers announced that citizens’ basic freedoms were respected but that reports of voting, pressure on officials and voters were intimidated into voting on certain parties.
The Carapetyan remained as prime minister after the election and soon took Dashnak into the government, giving the government the three-fifths majority needed to make certain important decisions. In March 2018, Armen Sargsyan, who was prime minister for a short period in the 1990s and also served as London’s ambassador, was elected president.
In early April, the Republican Party announced that it expected Serzh Sargsyan to be nominated for the post of Prime Minister. It sparked the spark of widespread protests and Serzh Sargsyan was pressured to resign. Acting Prime Minister was Karen Karapetyan, but he too soon got the hang of it when the popular protests did not want to deceive. Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan traveled around the country and kingdom to get support against the ruling party. In a first vote in Parliament when he was nominated as prime ministerial candidate, Pashinyan was not supported by enough members. A week later, he was elected acting prime minister after the Republican Party found it too good not to block him. But the fox game was not over, as the Republicans dominated the parliament. In order to make a difference, he must achieve changed conditions of strength in Parliament. Pashinyan had several parties behind him and eventually succeeded in pushing a new election.
The re-election was held at the end of 2018 and became a devastating victory for the reform camp. Pashinian’s Alliance Middle Step took home 70 percent of the vote, and even the other two parties that managed the five percent barrier – A Successful Armenia and Brilliant Armenia – are described as Pashinian-friendly. For the old Republican Power Party, the election was a disaster: it failed to pass any of the barriers (5 percent for parties, 7 percent for alliances).
After the 2018 elections, Parliament has 132 members, according to Armenian sites. The number may vary depending on the electoral system, which gives an extra mandate to opposition parties that can pass the five percent barrier if the largest party / alliance receives more than 70 percent of the vote. According to the electoral law, the opposition must have at least one third of the mandate. The turnout was 61 percent in 2017. In the new election it was only 49 percent.
For Pashinyan, it has been “up to proof” since the election victory. His political program has been rather unclear, but in the summer of 2018, a number of anti-corruption measures let him talk. Both individuals and companies with links to the Republican Party have been subject to scrutiny. A celebrated war hero from the battles over Nagorno-Karabakh, retired army general Manvel Grigoryan, has been seen being demolished from the pedestal and ejected from the party, since the judicial system formalized mosquito charges against him.
Detronizing the old guard is also considered to be associated with risks. Pashinyan’s closest confidant, Artur Vanetsyan, head of the national security service, has claimed that there have been intelligence reports on attack plans against the country’s new leadership. But in the fall of 2019, it was no less than Vanetsyan who resigned, the hitherto most notable departure for Pashinyan, since he had been commissioned to investigate oligarchs and other power players. It has remained unclear what the contradictions are about, but Vanetsyan has since formed a new party and opposed Pashinyan.
Nagorno-Karabach remains in focus
The conflict with Azerbaijan over the Armenian-populated enclave Nagorno-Karabakh has continued to dominate Armenian politics. Despite repeated international mediation attempts, the situation appears to be largely locked and the armed clashes at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border continue (see Foreign Policy and Defense).
Follow the ongoing development of the Calendar.
READING TIPS – read more about Armenia in the UI’s online magazine Foreign magazine: Compromise in view after nerve war in Armenia (05/05/2018)
FACTS – POLITICS
Hayastani Hanrapetutyun / Republic of Armenia
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Armen Sargsyan (2018–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan (2018–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Mid Step 88, A Successful Armenia 26, The Brilliant Armenia 18 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Republican Party 58, Tsarukyan Alliance (A Successful Armenia et al) 31, Way Out 9, Dashnak 7 (2017)
49% in the 2018 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2023, presidential elections 2025