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Armenia Politics

State and politics

GOVERNMENT

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.

Political System of 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 support party.

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.

Policy

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 Minister 1998-99.

Armenia has had no female president or prime minister. Representation in Parliament is skewed and few women hold political posts.

Judiciary

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.

Human Rights

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 socially accepted.

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

Presidents

1991-98 Levon Ter-Petrosian
1998-2008 Robert Kotjarjan
2008-18 Serzh Sargsyan
2018- Armen Sargsyan
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