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Sunday marked the return to the polls for Armenians residing in the capital of Yerevan, having not voted since the country saw mass protests in response to the former leader’s resignation. The ballot included votes for the mayor and for the Council of Elders, comprising 65 seats. The mayor’s seat had been empty since Taron Margaryan was pressured to resign after corruption allegations.
The polls were a test for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who came to power following protests against former President Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation. Pasinyan passed the test when the Central Election Commission announced that Pasinyan’s My Step bloc received 81 percent of the vote in a landslide victory following municipal polls. A party only needs a majority of the votes for its candidate to become major, based on Armenian law. Twelve parties and alliances ran in the election for council seats. My Step’s top candidate, actor and comedian Hayk Marutyan, became mayor of Yerevan following the election. “We all understand that the new government needs our support so that anti-revolution forces cannot come back,” 32-year-old construction worker Sargis Hakobyan, who backs Pashinyan’s party, told the AFP news agency.
Pashinyan’s popularity following his involvement in protests came from his anti-corruption and economic reform positions. However, the Armenian Parliament consists mostly of the formerly ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which will result in clashes on many issues. Pashinyan publicly urged citizens to vote for his ally My Step, hoping to gain enough public support through the election to be able to negotiate a snap parliamentary election to replace the HHK majority. “I hope that my fellow citizens today will very actively participate in the vote and won’t stay at home because there is no doubt that you are the ones who will decide [the election outcome],” he said in a live video posted to Facebook on the morning of the election.
After afternoon numbers suggested few Yerevan voters were coming to vote, Pashinyan called again for people to vote. With citizens no longer being bribed by parties to vote, he realised why the turnout was relatively low. Pashinyan was quoted saying he hopes the authorities’ election conduct would be “exemplary.”
Election contenders, local monitors, and media reported an unusually low number of irregularities and accidents this election. Armenia’s Investigative Committee has pledged to investigate the 25 complaints it received regarding election violations. Armenia’s opposition has been concerned for decades about rigged elections.