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Armenians Voting In Landmark Parliamentary Elections

Voting has begun in Armenia. The My Step alliance is the big favorite to win the December 9 vote.
Voting has begun in Armenia. The My Step alliance is the big favorite to win the December 9 vote.

YEREVAN – Armenians are voting in snap parliamentary elections nine months after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protests that led to a peaceful change of government and ignited new hopes of more democratic rule.

Preelection opinion polls have indicated that acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step alliance is the big favorite to win the December 9 vote.

It was Pashinian, a former anticorruption journalist, who led the demonstrations that forced long-entrenched leader Serzh Sarkisian to step down from office.

Pashinian was eventually elected to the prime minister's post, although the Republican Party (HHK) maintained its majority in parliament.

Pashinian announced in October that he was resigning from the post in order to dissolve parliament and force early elections. He has continued to perform his prime-ministerial duties until a new parliament and prime minister are elected.

Armenia's acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian
Armenia's acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian

Pashinian pushed for early parliamentary elections following his bloc's landslide victory in the mayoral race in the capital, Yerevan, in a bid to unseat the HHK.

Pashinian’s My Step alliance, the HHK, and nine other political parties and alliances are vying for seats in the 101-member National Assembly.

The list of candidates of the HHK is headed by former Defense Minister Vigen Sarkisian, who urged Armenians to “get out and vote."

“I expect that, by the end of the day, we will have a more consolidated society,” he said after casting his ballot in Yerevan.

“I voted today for an Armenia where no one will ever allow the idea that society can be divided into whites and blacks. Because this would lead to the formation of an internal enemy, and the internal enemy in a besieged fortress is the worst that can happen.”

Vigen Sarkisian is no relation to Serzh Sarkisian, who served 10 years as president before assuming the prime minister's post in an effort to remain in power. Serzh Sarkisian is not running in the election.

A Gallup poll conducted between December 1-4 among 1,100 voters put the My Step Alliance well ahead of all other parties with 69.4 percent.

No other party broke the 6 percent level, with the Republican Party at around 1.3 percent support.

Armenia has traditionally been a close ally of Russia, although Pashinian has spoken of desires to also increase the South Caucasus nation’s ties with the United States and Europe.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Alan Crosby and Siranuysh Gevorgyan of RFE/RL’s Armenian Service