Opinion Polls give a picture of a sort, ahead of Sunday’s elections in Armenia.

If Opinion Polls are to be believed then the outgoing government in Armenia is one of the most popular in the world. According to the two main Opinion Poll organisers the three parties of the Coalition that kept the government in power over the last five years have between them over 75% of support amongst the decided voters, ahead of next Sunday’s Parliamentary elections. But not everybody agrees.

In the seventh part of its series of briefings on the 2012 Parliamentary elections in Armenia, LINKS Analysis looks at the results of two opinion polls released a few days before the elections, and their credibility.

Two organisations have been conducting opinion polls ahead of the elections. Both have issued two sets of results, one at the start of the campaign in March, and one over the weekend reflecting polling in mid-April.

One organisation calls itself Gallup International, although it seems not to have anything to do with the American company of the same name, and has conducted the poll together with the Sociological Association of Armenia. The poll was commissioned by ArmNews TV. The poll was held among 1015 voters on the whole territory of Armenia from April 16-22.

The second poll was commissioned by the European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA). According to EuFoA  “This TNS opinion supervised poll with an error margin of ±2,4% was subject to extensive quality controls and conducted by IPSC and EuFoA. The fieldwork with 1600 face-to-face interviews in all regions (marzes) of Armenia took place between 17 and 22 April 2012.”

The Gallup International affiliate in Armenia, in its poll, gives the three coalition parties a total of 75.1%, whilst the poll conducted by The European Friends of Armenia (EuFoA) gives them 77.2% of the vote:

Party/bloc                                                  Gallup Int.*                       EuFoA** 

Republican Party of Armenia                  39.2%                                         40.6%

Prosperous Armenia Party                       29.9%                                         32.6%

Rule of Law Party                                       6%                                            5.4%

The EuFoA polls show the three parties not in the coalition but with a chance to enter parliament, struggling to break through the 5% threshhold (7% in the case of blocs) necessary to secure seats in parliament, and the Gallup Intl poll is not much different:

Party/Bloc                                                  Gallup Int.*                             EuFoA**

Armenian National Congress (Bloc)                12.2%                                          4.3%

Armenian Revolutionary Federation               5.3%                                            5%

Heritage   Party                                                   6.3%                                            6.5%

source: *www.arminfo.am; **www.EuFoA.org.

These figures are however quite controversial and many opposition spokespersons have  described the whole polling exercise as yet another government attempt to manipulate the election process. The Armenian media added to the confusion by quoting different figures for the poll results.

Adopting in post Soviet countries western style opinion polling, as well as exit polls on election day, has always been problematic. The political environment in most of these countries is considerably less free and tolerant. People are suspicious of pollsters thinking, not always wrongly, that they are acting on behalf of governments. Governments are not often kind to their adversaries so polls take place in an atmosphere of fear. Many opposition supporters therefore do not give their voting intention.

This is recognised by EuFoA, one of the organisers of the two polls in Armenia. In its press release issued on 28 April, announcing the poll results, it says that “EuFoA believes that the ANC may be underrated in polling, as supporters of radical opposition parties often refuse to participate in polls.

This seems to be also confirmed by spokespersons of the ANC. Speaking at a rally in Yerevan on 20th April one of the Blocs leaders called for what he termed a “30 second revolution”. Nikol Pashinyan told supporters: “We expect only 30 seconds from you. When they knock on your door tell them you are a Republican. Tell them during the Election Day that you are going to vote for RPA. But from the second you take the election ballot the 30 second revolution begins. When you enter the booth, you vote for ANC and your part of the revolution wins. No one will know that you voted against them.”

Analysts have mixed views on the accuracy of the polls. On the one hand some are saying that the big issue in this election is that between the two main parties of the former coalition: the Republican party headed by President Serzh Sargsyan and the Prosperous Armenia Party which carries the favour of former President Robert Kocharian, and is emboldened with having in the second place on its candidate list the former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanyan. Respected analyst Richard Giragosian, writing on commonspace.eu in January summed up the situation as  “a new political confrontation, representing a first ever conflict within the country’s political elite”. If that is the case then the opinion polls released last week may give an indication of where this confrontation is going.

Other analysts however dismiss the polls as part of an overall government strategy to create an aura of victory before the elections with a view to discouraging people from openly supporting opposition parties, and creating conditions that would make election manipulation easier.

Regardless of which version one wants to accept the polls offer some interesting reading. They should however not be taken too seriously since the chances of accuracy of opinion polls in the current Armenian political climate are limited. The poll that matters will take place on the 6th May and it is the result of that poll that must be accurate, and will determine Armenia’s future.

This is the seventh 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

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

(4)  Smaller parties may have important role if they can pass 5% threshold

(5) For Armenian Political Parties, Karabakh remains the elephant in the room

(6) There are 2,482,238 voters in Armenia, or are there?

source: LINKS Analysis (c)