Polls open in Armenia snap parliamentary election

The elections were called by incumbent PM following protests over the country’s defeat in a war with Azerbaijan last year.

Polls opened in Armenia on Sunday for a snap parliamentary election called by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan amid growing anger after the country’s defeat in the war against arch-foe Azerbaijan. Pashinyan, who has lost much of his appeal since last year’s military defeat, is hoping to renew his mandate but is in a tight race with former president Robert Kocharyan. Armenia Elections: Democracy and security on the ballotNagorno-Karabakh conflict casts shadow over Armenia’s snap pollWill elections end the crisis in Armenia? His critics accuse him of ceding swaths of territory in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan in a truce agreement that ended last year’s fighting and of failing to deliver on reform promises. During an aggressive campaign marred by polarising rhetoric, Pashinyan said he expected his Civil Contract party to secure 60 percent of the vote, though some pollsters say those estimates are far-fetched. The election in the South Caucasus country of around three million people will be watched by Armenia’s Soviet-era master Russia as well as Turkey, which backed Azerbaijan in last year’s six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Political observers say the election result is hard to predict with voter apathy running high and both Pashinyan and Kocharyan drawing massive crowds in the final days of the race. A venomous campaign saw candidates exchange insults and threats and both frontrunners are expected to stage demonstrations after the election. Pashinyan, 46, brandished a hammer at rallies, while Kocharyan, 66, said he would be ready to fight the prime minister in a duel and claimed he was planning to rig the vote. Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands reporting from Yerevan, said that people are hoping “these elections that were brought forward two years are going to confer on the winner some degree of popular legitimacy and give them five years… in which to start grappling with [the country’s] issues.” However, according to Challands, the morale is low. “We’ve been speaking to the people who have said essentially none of the politicians on offer are particularly appealing to them anymore and they are still deep in the trauma of their losses as is the whole country,” Challands added.
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