YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia’s acting prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, is on his way to bolstering his authority as his political bloc appeared to have taken a clear lead in elections in the ex-Soviet country on Sunday, the Central Election Commission’s (CEC) preliminary results showed.
Armenian acting prime minister Nikol Pashinyan casts his ballot during an early parliamentary election in Yerevan, Armenia December 9, 2018. REUTERS/Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure
My Step Alliance, which includes Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party, won over 70 percent of the vote based on results from more than 50 percent of the polling stations, the CEC said on its website.
Results showed that two moderate opposition parties – Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia – got enough votes to enter parliament as they cleared the 5 percent threshold.
Pashinyan came to power in Armenia in May after weeks of mass protests against corruption and cronyism. The former newspaper editor, who was jailed for fomenting unrest in 2008, marked a dramatic break from the cadre of rulers who have run Armenia since the late 1990s.
He stepped down in October so parliament could be dissolved ready for the early election, but remained the acting prime minister.
“Armenian citizens created a revolutionary majority at the parliament,” Pashinyan told reporters at his bloc’s headquarters after first results were published.
“If this trend continues, the majority won’t face any problems in implementing legislative changes.”
After a change of power in the South Caucasus country of around 3 million people, Pashinyan’s government sought to initiate changes to the electoral code. But the move was blocked by the former ruling Republican Party, which dominated the parliament.
The Republican Party received 4.37 percent of the vote, preliminary results showed.
Former high-ranking officials were sacked and some were arrested following the change of power. On Friday, an appeals court ordered the detention of former President Robert Kocharyan on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.
He was first arrested in July but freed the following month, and the case was sent to the appeals court. Kocharyan was Armenia’s second president, serving from 1998 to 2008, when mass protests erupted over a disputed election.
After taking office, Pashinyan promised there would be no major shifts in Armenian foreign policy and has offered assurances he will not break with Moscow.
Armenia hosts a Russian military base and is a member of Russia-led military and economic alliances.
Pashinyan also suggested he would stick with existing policies on the long-running issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.
A mountainous part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh, is run by ethnic Armenians who declared independence from Baku during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991.
Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia still regularly accuse each other of conducting attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Azeri-Armenian border.
Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Peter Cooney and Daniel Wallis