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Armenia: Post-Election Assessment

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  1. Armenia: Post-Election Assessment Richard Giragosian Director Regional Studies CenterYerevan, Armenia 26 February 2013

  2. Political Assessment • Pre-Election Context & Campaign • The Election • Election Reaction • Opposition: Momentum & Initiative • Role Play & Scenario Analysis Exercise Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  3. General Observations • Competition of election: limited choice, little voice, even less debate • Conductof the vote: widespread local & regional level violations; protest vote swings to opposition; acceptable voter turnout • Competence and capacity: CEC handling of challenges and complaints as a test • Confidence: legitimacy of results questioned; need to gain/earn public trust Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  4. Lack of Real Competition • Generally, the presidential election was the country’s least competitive election, with an absence of any one viable challenger to incumbent President Sarkisian • But the lack of real competition was an accurate reflection of the current political reality • Opposition was fairly weak due to three factors: open division between prominent opposition figures & inability to unite; lack of true grassroots-based political parties; pronounced lack of democracy within the parties themselves Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  5. Personality over Policy • As with past political campaigns (both presidential and parliamentary), the campaign was dominated by a contest of personality, rather than any real competition of ideology or a competing choice of policies • The campaign was also marked by a primitive and low level of political discourse, with little debate and even less of a choice between competing visions or strategic alternatives Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  6. Amateur Politics • A related criticism of the campaign was the affirmation that politics in Armenia is still more of a hobby, and not a profession, with little in terms of campaign tactics and even less political strategy; no clear message or theme, and no campaign planning of events or issues • In this way, it was not a political campaign as commonly accepted; the use of “boycotts & hunger strikes” are not political tactics, usually used in politics only as last resort, not first resort Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  7. Specific Trends • Un-level playing field; advantage of incumbency; use, misuse and abuse of administrative resources • Inflated and inaccurate voter list • Media coverage more open and balanced; but much less to cover • Widespread voting irregularities • Another “missed opportunity” for Armenian democracy Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  8. Lack of Real Competition

  9. This was the campaign highlight? Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  10. The Election: 18 February Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  11. “Harry Potter’s Disappearing Ink” Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  12. The Party Machine Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  13. The Election Outcome • Sarkisian’s re-election was largely expected (58.6 %) • Turnout was greater than expected (60%) • Votes for Raffi Hovhannisian (36.75%) more than expected; votes for Hrant Bagratian (2.15%) less than expected • Voting violations & irregularities • “Prosperous Armenia” campaigns for Sarkisian; passive Kocharian Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  14. The Broader SignificanceUnresolved March 2008 Lingers Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  15. The Post-Election Situation Can the opposition sustain the momentum?

  16. Reaction: 19 February Yerevan • Thousands turn out to protest election results • Hovhannisian emerges as undisputed leader of the opposition Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  17. Yerevan 20 February • Hovhannisian declares launch of “prolonged struggle” • Nikol Pashinian unofficially endorses & anoints Hovhannisian, but warns of need for clarity and strategy Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  18. 21 February: Meeting • Hovhannisian walks to meet President Sarkisian • Risky move, legitimizes Sarkisian • But also elevates the civility of political culture & challenges Sarkisian Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  19. 21 February: Meeting • Hovhannisian as new type of challenger • Sarkisian disarmed and confused by Hovhannisian’s smile • First-ever opposition maturity puzzles Sarkisian- has never faced such a non-confrontational rival Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  20. 21 February: Meeting • Risky move by not reporting on meeting, triggers concern over secret deal • Hovhannisian promises details in next day rally • But Hovhannisian gains upper hand, demonstrates willingness to engage Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  21. Yerevan 22 February • Pressure and opposition momentum only builds • Over 8000 protestors • Forges new tactical alliances as ARF and Nikol Pashinian lend support Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  22. Yerevan 22 FebruaryAlliances • Most important tactic is in securing Pashinian, as endorsement • But Pashinian may also emerge later to rescue and carry on the broader stuggle Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  23. Gyumri: 23 February • Smart tactics by Hovhannisian to leverage his base of support and broaden his momentum • Exploits his divisive win (+70%) in Gyumri & Vanadzor, second- and third-largest cities Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  24. 23 February“Agents of Change” • Former President Levon Ter-Petrosian (LTP) rejects election results, declares Hovhannisian winner • Hovhannisian recognized as LTP-style “agent of change” Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  25. 25 February: Student ProtestsHelp to Sustain the Momentum Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  26. Political Ghosts & Corpses • Situation affirms the decline of Prosperous Armenia Party and confirms demise of former President Kocharian • Even subsequent Prosperous Armenia party statement is to little, too late, failed attempt to show political relevance

  27. Context of Confrontation:Less apathy, even less fear Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  28. Opposition Tactics & Strategy 26-28 February: • “road show” to 21 cities & towns • Return for Yerevan rally & March 1st rally Most significant as first-ever opposition strategy to engage regions beyond the capital Yerevan Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  29. The Government’s Response • To date, the government has neither understood nor addressed the deep level of discontent • Government’s response has largely been passive and inactive, but no over-reaction either • Momentum & initiative remains firmly with opposition (so far)

  30. Trends & Forecast • Lingering discontent • Can the opposition strategize? • Do the authorities understand? • The government’s response? • Start of a political transition • Emerging leaders & new contenders Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School

  31. Role Play & Scenario Analysis • Role play exercise: the characters: • Main players: Sarkisian & Hovhannisian • Others: Pashinian & Ter-Petrosyan • Parties: ANC, ARF and Prosperous Armenia • Other? Kocharian? More?? • Scenario analysis: Strategic goals? Tactics: what next? How? Regional Studies Center (RSC) Expert School