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Armenians voted Sunday in risky early parliamentary elections for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, whose popularity collapsed after the recent military defeat to Azerbaijan, following a vehement campaign that raised fears of a tense climate after publication of results.
The Armenians were called to the polls, Sunday, June 20, for uncertain and risky anticipated legislative elections for Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian, which could also provoke demonstrations after a vehement campaign against the backdrop of defeat last fall in the war in Nagorno Karabakh .
Polling stations closed at 4:00 p.m. GMT and the first results are expected several hours later.
The ex-journalist Nikol Pachinian, 46, who became head of government in 2018 thanks to a peaceful revolution against the old corrupt elites, faced ex-president Robert Kotcharian, 66, who accuses his rival of incompetence and arises in experienced leader.
Nikol Pashinian’s wide popularity collapsed after Armenia was routed in a war against neighboring Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020. After six weeks of fighting that left more than 6,500 dead, Yerevan had to give in important territories that it had controlled since a first conflict in the 1990s for the control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a secessionist Azerbaijani region mainly populated by Armenians.
Perceived as a national humiliation, this defeat triggered a political crisis in Armenia, forcing Nikol Pachinian to call early legislative elections in the hope of lowering tension and strengthening his legitimacy.
Despite the reforms carried out by the Prime Minister, many of his former supporters let go after the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and turned to his opponents, who were linked to the old elites accused of having plundered the country.
The threat of unrest
Faced with the risk of an electoral defeat or a mixed score, Nikol Pachinian urged his compatriots to vote in order to give him a “mandate of steel”. “The Armenians see that there are forces which provoke political confrontations, a civil war”, he again launched Thursday.
During the last days of the campaign, the two rivals staged a show of force, each bringing together around twenty thousand supporters in the central square of the capital.
“The government is not able to solve our current problems”, accused Friday, in front of his supporters, Robert Kotcharian, suspected of corruption by his detractors after having directed this former Soviet republic from 1998 to 2008.
“We are a team which, unlike the current political administration, has experience, knowledge, strength and will,” he said, warning against attempts to “steal our voice”.
With the election campaign showing a deep division between the two main camps, many observers expect protests and even riots after the election.
President Armen Sarkissian ruled inadmissible “to incite hatred and enmity” and called on his compatriots to vote “fairly and freely”.
If no majority or majority coalition emerges on Sunday, a second round will have to be organized on July 18 between the two parties having obtained the best score.