2012 Parliamentary Elections in Armenia: (3) The choice – Levon Ter-Petrosyan hopes his four year struggle will bear results

For the last four years, Armenia’s first President, Levon Ter-Petrosyan, has led a political struggle against the current Armenian authorities, based on his challenge of the result of the 2008 Presidential election in which, according to the official result, he lost to the current incumbent Serzh Sargsyan. Ter-Petrosyan has never accepted the result and has repeatedly called for early Presidential and Parliamentary elections. His campaign over the last four years has dented the legitimacy of the current Armenian authorities.

In the third part of its series of briefings on the 2012 Parliamentary elections in Armenia, LINKS Analysis looks at the main opposition force challenging the Armenian authorities, the Armenian National Congress led by Levon-Ter Petrosyan.

Since 2008 the chain smoking academic turned politician has provided the personality around which the previously splintered anti government opposition could rally, and on 1 August 2008 he announced the creation of the Armenian National Congress (ANC), a grouping of eighteen political parties and forces. The ANC has proven to be a resilient force. Its public protests are usually well attended. It has maintained close and regular relationship with the international community, and it has kept the government on it toes for the last four years.

These parliamentary elections are the first serious electoral test for the Bloc, and its future will depend on it being able to perform well in them. This will depend on the extent to which the elections are held fairly, but also on the ability of the Bloc to get its message across to the two and a half million Armenian voters, and to mobilise its supporters to go out and vote on 6 May.

ANC candidates are running for parliament in 38 of the 41 single-member constituencies.   ANC Chairman Levon Ter-Petrosyan tops the Bloc’s proportional list which has 120 names, followed by Stepan Demirchyan and Aram Sargsyan. The ANC had to accommodate the leaders of the different parties that form it in its list. It may have benefited from having other people represented higher up in the list, however, given the overwhelming identification of the ANC with its leader this is not likely to effect voters choice very much.

The main messages of the ANC election campaign has been corruption, the incompetence of the government especially in the socio-economic sphere, and the undemocratic nature of the present authorities. The importance of the vote for the ANC was made clear by Ter Petrosyan when he addressed supporters in Ijevan during the campaign  “These elections are the Armenian people’s last chance for salvation”, he is reported to have told his supporters. The ANC is running under the slogan “No single vote for the criminal regime”.

Ter Petrosyan earlier identified the current President’s Republican Party and its ally the Rule of Law Party, as the ANC‘s enemies in the election, and left open the issue of co-operation with the three other significant political forces, Prosperous Armenia, Heritage and Dashnaks-ARF. Regardless of this all the parties will be trying to maximise their number of votes and this is possible at the expense of each other as much as at the expense of the Government Party. The ANC has support in Yerevan and amongst many middle class Armenians, which is also where  most support for the other parties comes from. The present, and possible future relationship between the ANC and the second party of the governing coalition, Prosperous Armenia, is already the subject of much speculation in the Armenian media. For the moment it seems that it suits both sides to refrain from attacking each other directly.

There is little doubt that the ANC will pass the 7% threshold necessary for blocks to enter parliament, the question is the size of its parliamentary group – something which will determine the future tone in the Armenian parliament, and in Armenian politics in general.

This is the third in a series of briefings on the 2012 Parliamentary Elections in Armenia, prepared by LINKS Analysis. This article may be quoted and/or reproduced in part or full as long as a clear attribution to the source is included with a reference to this website.

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read previous briefings on the 2012 Armenian Parliamentary Elections

(1) The context

(2) The Choice: The parties of the governing coalition

source: LINKS Analysis (c)

Photo: Levon Ter-Petrosyan addressing an opposition rally in the center of Yerevan on 1 March 2009 (archive picture)