ArmInfo.Director of the Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan in an interview with ArmInfo comments on the results of the Yerevan mayoral election. Forecasts their possible impact on the timing and results of the extraordinary parliamentary elections in Armenia. He talks about possible catalysts and obstacles in the way of holding these elections. He also assesses the chances of Robert Kocharyan to oppose Nikol Pashinyan in the light of the victory of the My Step block with a huge preponderance over the other participants in the elections to the Council of Elders of the capital.
What, first of all, was peculiarity of the election campaign and elections to the Council of Elders of Yerevan?
Its extreme stiffness, rather strong politicization. The election campaign for the mayor actually turned into a political campaign, which, on the whole, is quite understandable. And such rigidity, in general, and not required, because in any case the outcome of these elections was predetermined initially. For city elections voter turnout is quite normal, more than in the previous elections in Yerevan. For political elections, of course, there could be more turnout. Usually turnout decreases, when everyone understands that the elections are non-competitive and their outcome is predetermined. In my opinion, in the September 23 elections, people chose not the mayor, but they expressed to Nikol Pashinyan another giant, more than 80% confidence vote, thereby confirming his high legitimacy. Now about the bad. Elections to the parliament of Yerevan demonstrated the complete collapse of the party system in Armenia, then all the political parties in the country are in ruins. Even the winning block "My step", its backbone - the party "Civil Contract" won them only thanks to the post-revolutionary euphoria, the personal factor of Mr. Pashinyan. The rest of the parties can not speak at all. And it is extremely logical that as a result of the results of these elections, early parliamentary elections will be organized much sooner than planned earlier. At least that would be rational.
As far as I understand, the election of the mayor of Yerevan became a kind of primaries of the extraordinary parliamentary elections in Armenia. Will their results be a sort of catalyst that will push Pashinyan and his team to hold elections as soon as possible?
This, of course, can play the role of a catalyst. Approximately from 1992 until April 2018, all Armenian authorities were accustomed to adapting to existence under conditions of low legitimacy. The new Armenian power, on the contrary, habitually exists under conditions of high legitimacy, which is a natural environment for them. It is impossible not to understand that the rating will fall, euphoria is not eternal, for that they are euphoric that they are temporary. And Pashinyan's rating will decrease for the simple reason that today it is exceedingly high. Accordingly, elections should be held while this rating is very high. Pashinyan's main task is to complete the transit of power today. And not even because he so badly needs to change the parliament and get rid of the entrenched Republicans. Much more important is the question: will the Pashinyan parliament be elected if the next elections are held in 2022. Accordingly, holding of early elections for Pashinyan's team right now is a matter of rationality. Although on this way there are quite a lot of technical obstacles, for example, the still unfinished Electoral Code. I do not know how soon they will be overcome by the authorities, but with the appropriate political will and the presence of a powerful carte blanche given by the society, it is quite possible to do this.
Pashinyan earlier designated the date for the elections as May 2019. Already today, the authorities are talking about holding elections not later than this autumn. Mark the difference between the votes in favor of his party in the event of elections in the future and the current year.
Without naming percentage, I will say that in May next year after the winter Pashinyan's support will be much lower than if the elections are held this fall. At the same time, it seems to me that Pashinyan's high popularity will last until the spring, which will allow him to win elections next year. And the reason here is not so much in the high popularity of Pashinyan and Co.. How much in the ruined state of the party system in Armenia, in general. To build a serious political force capable of resisting Pashinyan in half a year is impossible in practice. There are simply no such forces on the political horizon. Accordingly, the probability of victory is great in this and next year.
In other words, Robert Kocharyan, who's back, also has no chance to build such a political force?
I do not like to state the 100% indicator, but Kocharian's chances for this are very low. And I do not even think that in the case of Kocharyan, even the emergence of a force majeure situation can help him. I do not in any way say that this is impossible at all, I say that this is impossible in the period ahead of the early elections. Let us recall the extremely high rating of Levon Ter-Petrosyan in 2008. But today it is simply impossible and both Kocharyan and Republicans understand this perfectly, which is reflected in their refusal to participate in the political elections of the Yerevan mayor.
Based on your words about the post-revolutionary euphoria and Pashinyan's support for society, it seems that you, let's say, do not really believe in his team's ability to carry out serious structural socio-economic reforms in the future, which, at least, will allow it to maintain a higher rating ...
I believe in the second coming of Christ, in politics I do not believe in anything, I just analyze. To date, the executive's strategy is to use high popularity to maintain high popularity. High popularity is a very good thing for any politician and undoubtedly needs to be used, which is done by many politicians in different countries, for example, to implement unpopular reforms in society. For example, for serious institutional changes, something that has not been done for a long time, but it needs to be done for a long time. I do not see all this yet, although, of course, the period of transit of power is not completed. The executive power is taken, gradually the local authority passes into the hands of Pashinyan's team, which is an example of Yerevan. Ahead of the legislative power and obviously the speech will finally reach the judicial authority. As a result of all this, in theory, there should be a change of people at the helm of the executive branch, development of any serious plans, strategies. Because what is happening now is rather chaotic. And people from today's government structures are very heterogeneous. I'm not even talking about their competence, I'm only talking about their heterogeneity. Today in Armenia there is absolutely no watchdog or watchdog - control over the authorities by a strong opposition, a serious civil society that performs its functions, but only supports the authorities, etc. I by no means exclude that these tools will be created, but today they are not. I am convinced that with the implementation of reforms, the popularity of power does not increase, but decreases. I know this, if you wish, because I see hundreds of samples around the world. To carry out reforms in order to improve the management of society, and that society loved you for it is almost impossible. At least, without the inflow of huge money, which is not expected in Armenia.
Do you expect the projection, at least approximate, of the results of the Yerevan mayoral election to the results of the extraordinary elections?
If early elections are held soon enough, then, of course, yes. Yerevan is about a third of the population and, accordingly, of Armenia. Usually, Yerevan is somewhat more oppositional than the province. And then there is added inertia to vote in an opposition way, which in this case will be expressed by voting for the "Civil Treaty". Accordingly, the results of the elections in Yerevan will certainly affect the results of the early elections, if the latter will be held this autumn.