Armenia Elections: A Revolutionary Turning Point

Armenian citizens wait to vote in the snap Parliamentary elections in December 2018 at a polling station in Yerevan, Armenia.

December 9, 2018 represents the beginning of a new era in Armenia; it marks the day Armenians officially challenged the status quo of the Republican Party of Armenia’s (HHK) administration through active participation in parliamentary elections. As a result, after 27 years in power, the HHK was faced with an unprecedented call for change. While Armenia has experienced mass protests and quasi-successful revolutions in the past, the “Velvet Revolution” in April of 2018 was a historic success. Tens of thousands of Armenians took to the streets in peaceful protest to demand democratization and institutional reforms, which led to the resignation of the then-Prime Minister, Serzh Sarkisian. Sarkisian’s resignation sparked the Armenian public to further voice their demands for change, which were clearly reflected in the December election results with the election of a new parliament and Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan.

Through its 22 years of work in the country, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) has collaborated with government and civil society partners to support judicial independence and transparency, foster due process and practical legal education, improve access to justice, make continuing legal education sustainable, and promote the use of human rights mechanisms, among other initiatives. ABA ROLI’s current “Advancing Human Rights for All in Armenia” program, implemented with USAID support, seeks to ensure human rights protection for all Armenians by enhancing the capacity of the Office of the Human Rights Defender (OHRD) of Armenia. This includes facilitating the OHRD's collaboration with human rights organizations, as well as promoting public awareness of human rights and human rights protection mechanisms.
The logo associated with the public awareness campaign during the pre-election, election, and post-election periods for Armenian citizens. 

As a result of the political developments in Armenia throughout 2018, additional activities were added in the program to strengthen the OHRD’s capacity to respond to violations of electoral rights, ensure access to legal aid on election-related violations, and foster the human rights community’s ability to actively engage in electoral dispute resolution. ABA ROLI’s activities before, during, and after the snap Parliamentary elections in December 2018 focused on the protection and promotion of electoral rights. The activities improved the Armenian people's access to elections assistance by developing election hotlines, awareness materials, and establishing and training Election Ambulance Advisory Teams (EAAT) throughout the country. The EAAT promoted election integrity, increased voter education, and supported access to justice.

After the elections, in January 2019, the program organized a roundtable for representatives of the OHRD, the Central Electoral Committee and the Election Advisory Teams to discuss common election-related offenses and their experiences from monitoring the recent election. The program continues to expand efforts to strengthen the media relations and communication skills of OHRD staff for impactful communication and compelling and accessible messaging for all citizens on human rights promotion, protection, and compliance.

Election Day Highlights

Pictured in the above images are members of the election advisory teams that were sent across the four regional areas of Armenia.
  • On Election Day, ABA ROLI sent 28 election advisory teams of 84 members across the four regional areas of Yerevan, Gegharkunik, Syunik and Lori.
  • The election advisory teams provided first-hand legal support at 561 polling stations.
  • The teams also received and answered 91 pre-election and 29 election day hotline calls, which provided legal and electoral rights advice to Armenians.
  • Additionally, 354 people participated in the 23 Election Rights Public Awareness trips, which covered four regions and provided electoral voter rights and in-person legal consultation.
  • The OHRD Internal Election Guideline was developed and two public service announcements about election-related services garnered over 119,000 views each.
  • An Election-Specific Know Your Rights Pocket Guidebook was developed and 2000 copies were distributed to the public.
  • The Lawyer Election Code Manual was developed and 500 copies distributed.

The members of the Gegharkunik region’s election advisory team pictured from left to right are Hayk Khachatryan, Human Rights Defender Regional Š˛ffice Expert, and Levon Torosyan, Gegharkunik election home base Advocate.

Read more on the Armenia elections and the results on the CIVILNET and on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: here and here.

For over 22 years, ABA ROLI has supported judicial independence, fostered due process and practical legal education, and promoted the use of human rights mechanisms, among other initiatives, in Armenia.

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Europe and Eurasia.

This program is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Human Rights Support Mechanism/PROGRESS Consortium. The contents of this post are the sole responsibility of the Progress Consortium and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.