Monday, 25 May 2020

E Editorial

Some election lessons from Artsakh

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During the September 8 municipal elections in Artsakh, one important circumstance emerged, which is worth discussing in detail. Political changes in Armenia, as can already be argued, have significantly changed the logic of internal political processes in Artsakh. The machine of centralized influence on voters, which has been practiced for more than two decades, has failed. Many observers note that for the first time, people were given the opportunity to make free choices. None of the previous factors suppressing the will of the majority of voters showed their effectiveness. Neither the pro-government parties, nor the bureaucratic corps became the "heroes" of these elections. And the fact that in one of the settlements - Kovsakan - voters showed a massive protest against the announced election results, shows even more clearly that this time only the voters decided the fate of the elections.

Times have clearly changed. Initially, it was clear that for the political forces of Artsakh these elections were a measure of public sentiment with an eye to the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections next year. This can explain the fact that not one of the existing parties nominated their candidates for key posts in Stepanakert and regional centers. Nobody wanted to see their candidate defeated, as this would mean that a particular party has no influence on voters. Preference was given to the tactics of shadow support of self-nominated people who have authority in society.

However, the election situation was more complex than expected. Nobody managed to hide behind independent candidates. Voters behaved quite unexpectedly. Despite the fact that almost every candidate was initially attached with a cliché “a man of such and such,” “a man of power,” etc., society ignored this circumstance. Mostly, a personal choice proved itself, which is already evident from the percentage of votes cast for each candidate. This is clearly seen from the voting results in Stepanakert, where not one of the candidates received a “breakthrough package” of votes. And only the fact that the law does not provide for a second round of voting allowed one of the candidates to win with a minimum of votes.

Thus, according to preliminary data, David Sargsyan, the non-partisan businessman who won in Stepanakert, received 7787 votes, and reserve officer Grigory Sahakyan came in second place with 4765 votes. In the third place Areg Avagyan garnered 3125 votes. Even the current deputy mayor, Armen Hakobyan, received only 3059 votes, while Araik Avanesyan, who received the least number of votes, still got 2108 votes. Given the fact that in Stepanakert, out of the 39 thousand registered voters, 21,543 voters participated in the vote, the victory could be ensured by receiving all the votes of one fifth of the voters. As you can see, none of the candidates showed a serious influence on the opinions of the majority of residents of the Artsakh capital. Almost half of the voters simply showed no interest in the election.

Voting results in some district centers also demonstrate that the factor of administrative resources and the factor of parties did not have a significant effect on the mood of voters. Preference in many places was given to non-partisan self-nominees.

One can only hope that no one will be able to reverse the wheel of the noted positive process.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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