An apathetic mood has settled over Armenia following the country's parliamentary elections, which, like the presidential vote earlier this year, was tainted by voting irregularities. There have been few protests over the election results, which have given pro-presidential parties a controlling stake in the new parliament. International observers have expressed concern that Armenians are becoming disillusioned with the democratic process.
The May 25 parliamentary election saw only a 52 percent turnout, the lowest participation for a national election since Armenia regained its independence in 1991. A joint report from the OSCE and Council of Europe warned that the low turnout reflects a quiet crisis of public confidence. [For background, see the Eurasia Insight archives]. International monitors reported a variety of voting irregularities. However, observers noted that transgressions were not as widespread as during the two rounds of presidential voting in February and March.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, whose Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) won the largest allotment of seats, said June 3 that he "largely agrees" with the international assessment that the election was flawed. But he added that that the voting flaws had no "substantial impact" on the results. In all, according to final results released May 31 by the Central Election Commission, six political parties cleared the 5 percent vote barrier to gain parliament seats. In addition to the HHK, the other parties to secure parliament seats are the Artarutiun [Justice] opposition bloc, the Orinats Yerkir [Law-Governed Country] Party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, or Dashnaktsutiun, the National Unity Party and the United Workers' Party. Overall, approximately half of the 131 members of the new legislature come from Armenia's business elite, highlighting the ever-tightening relationship between government and business interests.
The allegations of irregularities during parliamentary voting did not generate street protests of the kind that occurred in March, after President Robert Kocharian's disputed reelection. [For background, see the Eurasia Insight archives]. The Justice bloc has called on the CEC to annul the parliament election results, and some members have agitated for a boycott of parliament. But such appeals have met a muted response.
The mood of the electorate is reflected in the comments of Vardan Hovhannisian, a documentary filmmaker from Yerevan, who says he cast his ballot "against all." "Seeing the names and faces of the parties and candidates, I did not believe in any of them," he explained. "Plus, if I had not chosen
Nicole Vartanian is a freelance writer based in Yerevan.