2012 Armenian Parliamentary Elections: (4) Smaller parties may have important role if they can pass 5% threshhold

Five parties that are not part of either the governing coalition, or of the ANC opposition bloc, are also contesting the May 6 Armenian Parliamentary Elections. They need to pass the 5% threshold to secure seats in parliament. The Dashnak ARF and Heritage were represented in the previous parliament and constituted the parliamentary opposition. They both hope to return to Parliament after 6 May. The other three parties are marginal and stand little chance of capturing seats.

In the fourth part of its series of briefings on the 2012 Parliamentary elections in Armenia, LINKS Analysis looks at the role that the Dashnak ARF and Heritage can play after the elections, as well as giving some information on the three other smaller parties, even if experts things they stand no chance of being in the next parliament.

The Dashnak Armenian Revolutionary Federation is one of the best organised political forces in the South Caucasus, and unlike most parties in the region does not revolve around personalities but stands for a clear political and ideological programme. It was the strongest political force in Armenia during the brief period of independence after World War I, and continued to exist in exile throughout the Soviet period. The party is a member of the Socialist International, the grouping of social democratic parties which includes the British Labour Party and the German SPD amongst others.

Two things characterise the Dashnaks more than others: the first is that their strength is greater amongst Armenians in the diaspora then it is inside the country. The second, and not unrelated, is their strong anti Turkish rhetoric. In 2009 the ARF left the governing coalition because of difference with president Sargsyan over foreign policy, and primarily the government’s willingness to sign protocols with Turkey to normalise relations between the two countries.

The ARF  election campaign is based on a number of  popular promises, including free apartments for the families having five or more children, monthly child benefits and removal of tuition fees for students having children. They also promise a 400% increase in the  average wage for soldiers and healthcare system employees, and  promise to fix the basic minimum wage at around $160. The Party argues that these reforms are necessary in order to increase the annual population growth rate  by 50,000.

The Party also promises political reforms, and says that Armenia should switch from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government. The Party’s proportional list includes 85 candidates. Eight candidates will run in the single seat constituencies under the majoritarian system. The party’s motto is ‘Freedom, Justice, Dashnaktsutyun.’

The room for manoevre for the ARF is somewhat limited. The Party was outlawed during the time of the Ter Petrosyan presidency and connections with the Armenian National Congress is therefore unlikely. The Party however also does not feel very comfortable with the current government and participation in a future coalition government is probably unlikely. ARF is hoping that its historical clouth, its support in the diaspora and its populist policies will ensure that it is not sandwiched between bigger forces and that it breaks through to secure seats in the new parliament.

Heritage is also a well organised party, led by Armenia’s first foreign minister Raffi Hovhanessian. Heritage describes itself as a liberal party and like the Dashnaks has strong support amongst the diaspora. Some commentators believe that Heritage will not be able to make it past the 5% threshold in the election, but it may be in the interest of the government coalition to have Heritage in the parliament, thus diluting the likely role of the ANC as  the voice of all opposition in the parliament. This may lead to some last-minute tactical voting. A number of other opposition parties have already hinted at a possible alliance between Heritage and the ruling party, although this has been described by Heritage as black propaganda.

The slogan of the Party in the election is “We are coming”. The party’s manifesto highlights liberalisation of the economy, industrial development, reforms in the IT sector and agriculture, as well as support for SMEs

The party promises to make the average salary about $512 (AMD 200,000) and to increase annual domestic and foreign investments to $1.5 billion. In its manifesto the party says that in coming ten years the party will do everything to increase Armenia’s population up to four million.

Heritage is running in the election with a smaller party – the  Free Democrats Party on a joint proportional list which also includes some representatives of civil society organisations.

The Communist Party of Armenia is running on a campaign that tries to exploit the nostalgia amongst certain sections of the Armenian population for Soviet times. The party’s television election clips depict a then and now situation and paint an idyllic picture of Soviet Armenia which the Party hopes to somehow restore. The Party’s manifesto says that the Russia led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) needs to be the bedrock on which Armenian policy is based.

The Head of the Armenian Communist Party, Ruben Tovmasyan has also called for a new constitution. “We must put an end to corruption, bribery and clans. We need a law to lift immunity of MPs. All should be equal before the law regardless of their post,” he stated at a Press Conference to launch his Party’s election manifesto.

The Communist Party of Armenia is running for the parliament jointly with the Progressive United Communist Party. The party’s election slogans are ‘The Nation wins if the Communists win’ and ‘Socialism, homeland, victory’. The party’s proportional list includes 75 names.

The Democratic Party of Armenia  (Hayastani Demokratakan Kusaktsutyun) is a left-wing political party established in 1991 by Aram Gaspar Sargsyan, the last secretary of the Soviet-era Communist Party of Armenia.

The Armenian Democratic Party has never been part of the government in the new Republic of Armenia although Sargsyan was a member of Parliament in 2003 to 2007. The party didn’t have representation in the Armenian Parliament after the 2007 elections because it could not pass the 5%.

The Party has tried to build a campaign based on social justice and accountability of state officials. The Party has also tried to use new media, such as facebook as part of its election campaign.

During the election campaign the Party leader, Aram G Sargsyan has called for strenghtening of Armenia’s relations with Russia, saying that it was the only country that supports Armenia politically and economically.

The United Armenians Party describes itself as a third force in Armenian politics, according to one of its leaders Hovhannes Hovhannisyan.

The party is critical of role of oligarchs that it claims support all the other political forces, and says that its funding has come solely from the membership fees paid by its 5,000 members. The Party says that most of its candidates are either scientists or lawyers.

 

 

This is the fourth 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.

If you want to read these articles as soon as they are published please join us on facebook.

Read previous briefings on the 2012 Armenian Parliamentary Elections:

(1) The context

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

(3) The Choice: Levon Ter-Petrosyan hopes his four year struggle will bear results

source: LINKS Analysis (c)