In Armenia, Nikol Pachinian facing the old guard for the early legislative elections

Armenians wait for their bus in front of an election poster supporting Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian on June 16, 2021. KAREN MINASYAN / AFP

The official campaign was short – barely two weeks – but tense. The hoarse voice, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pachinian, beat the recall one last time in front of 20,000 supporters gathered Thursday, June 17 in Yerevan, three days before the early legislative elections. “The past few months have been hell for all of us. Now we have to vote! The future is in front of us! “ The crowd applauds and takes up in chorus the official slogan of the Civil Contract party: “The future is in front of us! “

The last time the Armenians went to vote in the legislative elections, it was in 2018. It was a time of euphoria: the “velvet revolution”, carried by Nikol Pachinian – then a simple deputy of the opposition – had driven out the corrupt post-Soviet regime which had monopolized power for thirty years. Three years later, the context has radically changed. The country is in shock after its humiliating defeat to Azerbaijan in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, sealed by the ceasefire of November 9, 2020, drafted under the aegis of Moscow.

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More than 3,500 Armenian soldiers have died, significant territory has been lost, thousands of people have been displaced and dozens of prisoners of war remain in Baku’s hands. In addition, hundreds of Azerbaijani soldiers who entered Armenian territory on May 12 – 3 km beyond the border, according to Yerevan – refuse to leave, raising fears of a new conflagration.

Accused by the opposition of being a “Traitor” and ordered to resign after the defeat, Nikol Pachinian resolved, under pressure, to put his mandate back on the line by organizing early parliamentary elections. The poll, which is held on Sunday, June 20, is supposed to make it possible to get out of the political crisis.

“Choice between past and future”

For the first time, the Prime Minister will face him no less than three former presidents: Levon Ter-Petrossian, Serge Sarkissian and Robert Kotcharian, aged 66 to 76 years. ” It’s the Jurassic Park Armenian policy ”, observes Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center. Their presence gives rise to a battle of generations: that of Soviet Armenia, of which they are the representatives, against that of Nikol Pachinian, 46, who knew little about the USSR.

“It is a choice between the past and the future, because this opposition is largely representative of the old corrupt system”, adds Mr. Giragosian. This return of the old guard is going badly with some of the voters. “They got the power, got rich through corruption and did nothing for the country. And now what are they coming back for? Become even richer? “, annoys Marine Gasparian, 81, who had participated in the “velvet revolution” precisely for “Get rid of the old”.

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