A vibrant campaign adds credibility to Sunday’s elections in Armenia.

Armenia’s 2012 Parliamentary elections campaign is drawing to a close with political parties holding their last rallies and meetings with voters. This has been on the whole a vibrant election campaign with all the main parties working hard to get their message across to voters.

In the eighth part of its series of briefings on the 2012 Parliamentary elections in Armenia, LINKS Analysis assesses the campaign and the role of the media in the elections.

It is not possible to say that there has been a level playing field in the Armenian Parliamentary Elections Campaign of the past weeks. Some parties could make use of administrative resources, and others of financial resources not available to their competitors. But an active media, and the ability to use time on television for all parties, has enabled all contestants to put across their message to the electorate.

The media in the elections divided into three streams. The printed media has close association with the political parties and in many cases this was reflected in its coverage of the elections. New media: websites and news portals provided a broad spectrum of opinion and were perhaps the most free and active in the campaign. Some web-based media outlets had television programmes included on their sites which complimented the coverage of the regular TV stations. These sites however have limited audiences.

As usual the most important  role was played by television stations. Though largely controlled by government, the stations by and large followed guidelines for balanced reporting  once the election campaign started. The fact that all parties had free air time, and also the possibility of purchasing a certain amount of paid air time, helped a lot in enabling the message of all parties to get across to the electorate.

There were some small incidents of violence but on the whole the campaign has been peaceful. The tone was not always positive and there were some perosnal attacks on candidates and politicians.

Armenia’s president Serzh Sargsyan led from the front. He participated in numerous activities of his Republican Party (RPA) addressing voters on a range of domestic and local issues. The role of local governors and district administrations remains controversial. Many have been accused of supporting the ruling party not only through the use of administrative resources but also through intimidation of voters.

The most silent, although some say the most active politician in this election campaign has been former president Robert Kocharian. It is often claimed that Kocharian is the force behind the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) – one of the three parties of the governing coalition in the last parliament. Prosperous Armenia has conducted an active campaign often in confrontation with its old ally the Republican party. Many see this as a way for Kocharian to maintain his influence on the country’s political scene. Kocharian himself strenuously denies this. In an exclusive interview with the news agency Mediamax three days before the elections Kocharian said:

“I didn’t have and still don’t have any desire to get involved in the parliamentary election campaign one way or the other. In fact, I think that it shouldn’t concern presidents (acting and former ones).”

Asked about his links with Prosperous Armenia (PAP) Kocharian said:

 “I closely cooperated with the parties but I have never linked myself to them with interests beyond the borders of political partnership. I am convinced that in our conditions, President’s non-commitment to any party enables him to be a full arbiter and guarantor for political competition in the country. The PAP is one of the parties with which I have cooperated in the format mentioned above. If it were my party the majority of ministers and governors might join that party not the RPA by the parliamentary elections of 2007.”

The Opposition Armenia National Congress see the Elections as an opportunity to move their activity from the squares where it has been stuck since the presidential elections of 2008, back into the parliamentary framework. A respectable result for the ANC that would give it a reasonable number of seats in the new parliament will complete that process.

The other three parties with a serious chance of passing the 5% threshold:  Heritage, Rule of Law  and the Dashnak ARF  have campaigned intensively and have struggled for every single vote, knowing full well that being in Parliament is crucial for their future existence.

The full engagement of all the main political forces in the election campaign has helped give credibility to the election process and is definitely a positive factor.  However it is not yet possible to draw a conclusion on the Armenian elections, and much will depend on what happens on polling day, and crucially, immediately after polling day when votes are being counted.

picture: A rally of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaks) in Yerevan on 10 April 2012 (picture courtesy of www.arfd.info)

This is the eighth 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?

(7) Opinion Polls give a picture of a sort ahead of Sunday’s elections in Armenia.

source: LINKS Analysis (c)