On April 2, 2017 the newly formed opposition force "Way Out" bloc (Armenian: Ելք- Yelq) won 9 seats out of 101 in the Parliament of Armenia. What is its political track record, how did it perform at the elections and how did the media cover its steps?
The 4 Chapters of the "Way Out" (Armenian: Ելք- Yelq) Bloc
1. Political Record of the Bloc
2. Monitoring of the Parliamentary Election Campaign's Media Coverage
3. Voter Record and Seat Allocation in the Parliament of Armenia
4. Monitoring of the Yerevan City Municipality Election Campaign's Media Coverage
On December 12, 2016 three political parties joined a political alliance to represent one opposition force in the upcoming National Assembly elections. These parties are "Bright Armenia" with its leader Edmon Marukyan, "Republic" party with its leader Aram Sargsyan and "Civil Contract" party with its leader Sasun Mikayelyan. On February 14, 2017 the bloc held closed elections within and announced its first three candidates publicly. These were Edmon Marukyan, Aram Sargsyan and Nikol Pashinyan, who is a committee member of "Civil Contract." Two days later, on February 16, the bloc published its candidate list consisting of 121 people. For the purposes of efficient political record monitoring we will review only the first three members of the list.
While Edmon Marukyan and Nikol Pashinyan are the top leaders in "Yelq" their voting records do not fully match, showing a difference in policy views. Their voting similarity is 40%, the most recent alignment being their vote against Armenia's Government 2017 budget. Some prominent votes include Pashinyan voting "yes" to the "1000 dram" bill allowing Armenia's Army to collect shares from citizen salaries to be directed towards army needs after the April War, the process assumed public oversight by citizens and non-profit organizations. Marukyan was absent on the day. Another voting difference was the "rulebook of the National Assembly" passed in December, 2016. While Pashinyan voted "no" to it, Marukyan voted "neutral. The rulebook defined the work and ethical boundaries of newly elected Members of Parliament, committee work, rules and regulations for productivity purposes.
Besides these comparisons, there are others. Pashinyan leads the "con" vote by over 30% with a 41.7% record while Marukyan scored only 11.32%. The latter on the other hand leads the "pro" vote with over 15% and is 51.6% to Pashinyan's 36.8%. The latter was only absent at 8.5% of Parliament gatherings while Edmon Marukyan's score was 18.9%.
Aside from these two politicians the next leader of the bloc who held political power prior to April 2, 2017 elections is Aram Sargsyan. After the Prime Minister and his brother, Vazgen Sargsyan, was assassinated on October 27, 1999 in the Parliament of Armenia, the incumbent President Robert Kocharyan appointed Aram Sargsyan as the new Prime Minister to avoid civil war and public unrest. While a whole picture record of Mr. Sargsyan's actions could not be constructed we relied on newspaper archives and government decrees to give a taste of what his half a year administration was like.
On October 27, 1999 gunmen attacked the Parliament session and killed several politicians, among them Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan. These actions led to tension in the country and promised civil war. On November 3 President Robert Kocharyan appointed Vazgen's brother Aram Sargsyan as the new Prime Minister.
Perhaps Aram Sargsyan's biggest achievement was his small government policy. During his administration the number of ministries decreased from 24 to 18. He joined together the Ministries of Health and Social Insurance, Ministry of Agriculture and Environment, Ministry of Finance and Economy, Ministry of Urban Development and Territorial Administration, Ministry of Transport and Communication. He also removed the Ministry of Statistics, State Registry and Analytics.
Aside from this, a department to fight corruption was created in February, 2000 as part of the Ministry of Interior Affairs. It was to discover cases of illegal banking, money laundering, corruption of bond printing, waste and appropriation of targeted loans and grants, etc. Earlier in January a production of K3, K11 rifles and K2 guns was started. These light weapons were meant to supply Armenia with its own weaponry, but never resolved into mass production due to Sargsyan's early resignation. Part of the reasons for this was the inner politics going in the Government and between the President's office. This resulted in the budget being accepted in Parliament only in March, 2000- 4 months after the Prime Minister took office. On April 29 Sargsyan also paid a visit to Russia's President Vladimir Putin in hope of material support and advancement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but with no result. 4 days after this President Kocharyan signed a decree discharging Sargsyan off his duties. He explained his decision by describing that time's political environment "disrupting the foundations of our statehood."
The Campaign season for the Parliamentary Elections in Armenia started on March 5, 2017 and ended on March 31, a day prior to the April 2 Elections. Out of 136477 articles 2883 covered "Yelq." Out of these 898 covered specifically Edmon Marukyan, 1503 Nikol Pashinyan and only 482 the bloc. The following online news platforms were monitored to gather the data:
Compared to the 2883 articles which covered the "Yelq's" Parliamentary campaign, the Municipality Election campaign coverage has been significantly less for the bloc. Media monitoring from April 21 to May 4 shows that "Yelq" had been covered in 1179 articles, out of which 159 covered the bloc itself, 905 Nikol Pashinyan and 115 Edmon Marukyan, who is the campaign office's leader for the Municipality elections. How this will affect the outcome results is yet to be discovered, as the campaign will still go on until May 12 and who knows what events will take place prior to the elections.