Last weekend campaigns for Armenia’s parliamentary elections in April took off, with parties holding rallies and presenting their election programmes. The elections in April are of great significance as it will be the first time that the Armenians will vote since the adoption of the new constitution; in December 2015 a referendum was held with a majority voting in favor of a transition from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary political system. Furthermore the reforms mean that the prime minister will have more executive powers, the president in turn will get less power and a primarily ceremonial role in the new constitution.
Alleged motives and criticism regarding the constitution change
Several opposition parties were against the reforms as they believed it was a way of keeping current President Serzh Sargsyan in power. After his presidential term ends he will be able to become prime minister, a post without term limits and, since the reforms, more power.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also criticized the run-up to the referendum saying there had been "little public debate", opposition members in their turn stated that large-scale vote-rigging took place.
Parties and alliances in the April elections
Five political parties will run in the April 2 elections: the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, Free Democrats Party, Armenian Renaissance Party, Communist Party of Armenia, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. There will also be four alliances competing, these are Yelk (Way out) alliance, Tsarukyan alliance of tycoon Gagik Tsarukian, Armenian National Congress-People’s Party of Armenia alliance and the Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanian alliance of former Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and former Foreign Ministers Raffia Hovanissian (leader of the Heritage party) and Vartan Oskanian.
The Republican Party, party of current Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, is expected to win the most seats. In the previous elections in 2012 the party already won the most seats, getting over 44 percent of the votes.
Under the new parliamentary system Armenians will vote for a party or alliance, and for individual candidates running for parliament in a large amount of constituencies. The transition of systems will be fully completed in 2018, when Sargysan’s presidential term ends.