HHK AND ARF REAP THE FRUITS OF THEIR TACTIC
By Gor Abrahamian
The preliminary results of May 25 elections to parliament show that there were no unexpected developments and the picture that was outlined long before the election campaign has been reproduced. Actually that was how the political forces saw the new parliament. On the election day the president of the republic announced that the next government will be a coalition one, that is none of the bidding parties would be able to form an overwhelming majority. This actually happened. The Republican party of prime minister Margarian managed to win more votes than any other party, mainly due to huge administrative and force resources it manages and naturally the biggest portion of ministerial and other top government positions will be reserved for the Republicans.
The only difference that would eventually force the president to change the logic of distribution of ministerial portfolios is connected with Orinats Yerkir (Country of Law) party, which may claim for the second biggest faction in the parliament. Neither the Republican Party, nor the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the latter too claimed for government posts, ever expected Orinats Yerkir to emerge from the polls with so many mandates. But its campaigning tactics, especially in rural settlements, had a significant impact on the voting outcome. The point is that voter turnout in provinces was 1.5 times higher than in the capital Yerevan, which allowed the party to garner much more votes in the region than in the capital.
The unexpected breakthrough of Orinats Yerkir was due to serious differences and reciprocal attacks exchanged by Republicans and the ARF ahead of election day, added by aggressive campaigning of Orinats Yerkir and this may have served as a counterbalance to avoid large-scale vote fraud. The opposition also tied its hopes on this counterbalance, and the Ardarutyun alliance even gave up its traditionally aggressive way of struggling. Some of its leaders used to say that the reciprocal control and the OSCE observers' close watching of the polls would serve as a real safeguard against mass vote rigging and would allow comparatively fair elections.
The Ardarutyun is set to have a rather large representation in the parliament, but would not make part of the coalition government, but it will have excellent opportunities to raise the issues it was pursuing, but it is however hard to say whether it would succeed in it. The point is that some of its components were looking at the alliance as the only path for them leading to parliament. Having no clear-cut positions on the impeachment of the president and without an ideological unity, it may eventually split into minor factions, as was the case with Miasnutyun bloc. But in any case, Ardarutyun will be the only "clean" opposition in the parliament and the question of having or not having a strong opposition is tied with it. The other, so-called opposition force, represented by the National Unity of Artashes Geghamian is no longer perceived as such. It was conspicuous already at the campaigning stage and in this sense the gradual fall of Geghamian's rating is quite predictable. A rather vast portion of his supporters are frustrated now and this may force him to finally make his choice-either to join the true opposition or the pro-establishment camp. Having in view Geghamian's long coveted desire to take hold of a senior post in the executive, one can suppose what camp he will choose.
Also fresh forces are coming to parliament, which actually are loyal to president Kocharian and are going to make part of the current authorities. But their resources in the parliament are so scarce that they will be ignored by bigger forces when deciding on the composition of the new government. But the new forces do not seem to be interested in this very much as they see their mandates as a good opportunity to get ready for next elections. After all, the example of Orinats Yerkir is a clear manifestation of it. The failu
re to ensure clean vote is an indication that a certain segment of the society is seasoned in vote rigging and can do its "dirty work" even under a mutually supervised process. This means that the society is to detect this segment and neutralize it.