State and politics
Armenia celebrates its national day on September 21 on
the anniversary of the 1991 referendum that confirmed the
exit from the Soviet Union. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how AM can stand for Armenia.
According to the country's first constitution of 1995,
Parliament was elected every five years and had 131 seats. A
five per cent block meant that fewer and fewer parties were
in the elections. The president was elected for five years
and could be re-elected once. The President appointed the
Prime Minister to be approved by Parliament. In practice,
the president had great power, and after the 2007
parliamentary elections, two parties, the Republican Party
and Flowering Armenia, competed to count as the president's
In 2015, a new constitution was adopted which introduced
parliamentary government in Armenia. Under the new
constitution, the president is elected by Parliament. He or
she can sit for a maximum of seven years, that is, a term of
office. The new rules, which were approved in a 2015
referendum, reduced the president's power and extended the
prime minister's. Parliament is elected according to the
current constitution every five years and has 101 seats
distributed according to a largely proportional system.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) has on several occasions criticized the government
parties for various favors in connection with the elections.
The conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh has left its mark on
Armenian domestic politics since the dissolution of the
Soviet Union. The country's first president, Levon
Ter-Petrosian (president of the Supreme Soviet 1990-91,
president 1991-1988) led a support committee for Karabakh's
Armenians at the start of the war. The following Presidents
Robert Kotjarjan (1998-2008) and Serzh Sargsyan (2008-18)
are both born in Karabakh.
In October 1999, the country was shaken when five armed
men stormed the Parliament and shot to death Prime Minister
Vazgen Sargsyan, President Karen Demirtjyan (under 15 years
first secretary of the Soviet Armenian Communist Party) and
six other people.
The more important parties are linked to competing
financial groups. Corruption is a widespread problem.
However, the country has become one of the more developed
civil societies among the former Soviet republics and the
problem of corruption has to some extent been noticed in the
country's own media and through demonstrations.
In foreign policy, Armenia has sought relations with
several countries but in practice the historically poor
relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan have made the country
dependent on the Russian Federation. In September 2013,
Armenia decided to suspend the negotiation of an association
agreement with the EU in order to join a customs union
controlled by the Russian Federation.
Armenia is part of the Commonwealth of Independent States
(CIS), which consists of eleven former Soviet republics.
Armenia is one of the seven states that have also acceded to
the Collective Security Agreement, and there is a Russian
military base at the city of Gyumri. Armenia has been
cooperating with NATO since 2005 under a so-called
Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP).
The 2017 parliamentary elections were the first held
since the 2015 Constitution was introduced and to some
extent came to be seen as a democratic test. Voter turnout
was very low (33 percent) and was criticized by the European
Security and Cooperation Organization OSCE, which reported
on disruptions and voting.
Five parties and four party coalitions were in the
elections. Of these, four were elected to Parliament. These
were the then President Serzh Sargsyan's support party of
the Republican Party of Armenia, the opposition
coalition Thriving Armenia, the revolutionary
federation of the nationalist Armenia and the
Opposition coalition Utg. Prorussian President
Serzh Sargsyan strengthened his power as his party received
just over 49 percent of the vote compared to Flowering
Armenia, which received close to 28 percent of the vote.
Shortly after his second term as President ended in April
2018, Sargsyan, with the support of the Republican Party of
Armenia, was named Prime Minister. The appointment drew
widespread criticism and tens of thousands of protesters
objected to what was perceived as an attempt to cement
Sargsyan's political power dominance, forcing him to resign.
In May 2018, Nikol Pasjinian was elected Armenian Prime
Minister. He has previously worked as a journalist and
played a central role in the government-critical
demonstrations that took place in the spring of 2018.
President since April 2018 is Armen Sargsyan, who was Prime
Armenia has had no female president or prime minister.
Representation in Parliament is skewed and few women hold
As a Soviet Republic, Armenia had a judiciary where the
courts were independent and an instrument of political
leadership. The situation did not change immediately after
independence after 1991, but legal certainty remained
inadequate. Through the new constitution of 1995, some
stability has been achieved. Armenia has a judicial system
including a Supreme Court and a Constitutional Court, but
the process of change will continue for several years before
it has meant an improvement and legal certainty has become a
firmer foundation. The death penalty was abolished in 2003.
Armenia experienced violent clashes between police and
protesters in the early 1990s, and as a result, the
situation on human rights in the country deteriorated. Lack
of responsibility for the civilian deaths in connection with
the demonstrations is still affecting the political climate
in the country.
Freedom of speech and expression has improved in Armenia,
but there are still major problems. There is a lack of
independent media in the country. Most are controlled or
influenced by the political parties. Journalists are rarely
subject to violence and accusations of slander and
self-censorship is great. Freedom of information is limited
by news brokers who can have their assets frozen or their
license revoked. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom
Index for 2015, Armenia is ranked 78 out of 180.
Torture is a common occurrence and police brutality is
rarely reported. The definition of torture does not meet
international standards either, since it does not include
crimes committed by officials. In cases where police and
officials are reported for crimes, it rarely leads to
investigations or prosecutions. Corruption is another factor
that adversely affects legal security.
Many conscripts die each year as a result of suicide and
shooting deaths, which is rooted in major misconduct within
the army. Homophobia is widespread and LGBTQ people are
particularly at great risk of being subjected to violence
and discrimination both in the army and in civil society. In
2003, homosexuality was decriminalized, but it is still not
By law, medical treatment in hospitals and clinics is
free for all citizens, but socially vulnerable groups and,
not least, women living in rural areas have difficulty in
acquiring that right.
Heads of State