Acting Armenian PM’s bloc easily wins parliamentary vote – commission

Armenian acting prime minister Nikol Pashinyan casts his ballot during an early parliamentary election in Yerevan, Armenia December 9, 2018. REUTERS/Vahram Baghdasaryan/Photolure

YEREVAN (Reuters) – Armenia’s acting prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, bolstered his authority as his political bloc won early parliamentary elections in the former Soviet country on Sunday, the Central Election Commission’s (CEC) results showed.

My Step Alliance, which includes Pashinyan’s Civil Contract Party, won 70.4 percent of the vote based on results from all polling stations, the CEC said on its website.

Results showed that two moderate opposition parties – Prosperous Armenia and Bright Armenia – got enough votes to clear the 5 percent threshold to enter parliament.

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,” he said.

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 4.70 percent of the vote and it was not clear whether it managed to enter parliament. Under Armenia’s constitution, 30 percent of seats in parliament must go to opposition parties.

Former high-ranking officials were sacked and some were arrested following the change of power. An appeals court ordered the detention of former President Robert Kocharyan on Friday 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.

Pashinyan promised after taking office 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, Daniel Wallis and Paul Tait)

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