Armenian Opposition Opts Out of Local Polls
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||7 September 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CRS Issue 657|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Armenian Opposition Opts Out of Local Polls, 7 September 2012, CRS Issue 657, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/504f10c22.html [accessed 8 March 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Armenia's ruling party is set to win an easy landslide victory in local polls this month, since the opposition parties have largely opted out in order to save money for future national elections.
Of the nearly 4,800 candidates standing in the local polls, to be held in two rounds on September 9 and 23, with over 1,440 belong to President Serzh Sargsyan's Republican Party. That is more than all other parties put together.
Prosperous Armenia, which was previously in the governing coalition with the Republicans but has moved into opposition, has 304 candidates standing, while Dashnaktsutyun has 101 and the Rule of Law party has 64. The more radical opposition parties, Heritage and the Armenian National Congress, ANC, are fielding fewer than ten each.
The remainder of the candidates are running as independents.
Stepan Safaryan of the Heritage Party said there was little point taking part.
"Local assembly elections are based on corruption," he said. "The opposition cannot take part in a process where the fight depends on bribe-paying rather than political capacity."
The main reason for not putting up a fight, however, seems to be about conserving resources so to concentrate on national elections.
"The administrative resources are in the government's hands, and they use unlawful methods to maintain themselves," Lyudmila Sargsyan, a member of parliament from the ANC, said. "The opposition is therefore retreating from this fight," she said.
The absence of a strong opposition presence certainly gave ammunition to the Republican Party.
"For the opposition, the problems that exist in the regions are just small change," Hayk Babukhanyan, a member of parliament from the Republican Party, said.
Sergey Minasyan, head of political research at the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan, agreed that local politics were not the opposition's primary focus.
"The opposition's passivity can largely be explained by the lack of resources in their regional offices. In addition, elections to local assemblies are not the best platform for presenting the opposition's views, as the main campaign arguments are about matters like repairing water pipes or the providing fertilisers," he said.
Lilit Galstyan of the Dashnaktsutyun party suggested that elections were essentially a formality and had little real impact.
"The rules of the game are drawn up in such a way that elections don't mean anything. They no longer an instrument that affects the formation of the government… intellectual, physical, moral and material resources are therefore frittered away on them," she said.
Alexander Markarov, director of the Yerevan office of the Institute for CIS Countries, said the opposition were making a mistake by not fielding candidates.
"Even if opposition parties don't believe they will be successful in the local assembly elections, that doesn't mean they shouldn't take part in them," he said.
The opposition is certain to win one major post – that of mayor of Gyumri, Armenia's second city. The Republican Party has not nominated a candidate itself and is instead backing Prosperous Armenia's Samvel Balasanyan.
Armen Minasyan, a political analyst from the web site www.panorama.am, said the Republicans had taken this decision to end a poisonous war between its mayoral candidate in Gyumri and a former contender from Prosperous Armenia.
"To end this battle, the authorities decided to support a neutral candidate," he said, noting that this did not make it more likely that the two parties would ally themselves in future elections, such as next year's presidential poll.
Armen Badalyan, a political expert, noted that the Republican Party lost Gyumri in the May parliamentary election, and probably wanted to avoid further humiliation.
"It's possible the Republican Party announced it was supporting the Prosperous Armenia candidate merely in order to avoid losing to it a second time," he said.