The election was convened by the current prime minister following protests over the country’s defeat in a war with Azerbaijan last year.
Polls opened in Armenia on Sunday for a speedy parliamentary election called by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan amid growing anger over the country’s defeat in the war against arch-enemy Azerbaijan.
Pashinyan, who has lost much of his appeal since last year’s military defeat, hopes to renew his mandate but is in a tough race with former president Robert Kocharyan.
His critics accuse him of ceding parts of the Nagorno-Karabakh breakaway area to Azerbaijan in a ceasefire agreement that ended last year’s fighting and that he did not keep reform promises.
During an aggressive campaign polarized by polarizing rhetoric, Pashinyan said he expects his civilian contracting party to get 60 percent of the vote, although some pollsters believe the estimates are far-fetched.
The election in the South Caucasus country of about three million people will be watched by Armenia’s Russian master, as well as Turkey, who supported Azerbaijan in last year’s six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Political observers say the election result is difficult to predict, while voter apathy is in full swing and that Pashinyan and Kocharyan are attracting a large crowd in the final days of the race.
In a toxic campaign, candidates are exchanging insults and threats, and both frontrunners are expected to hold demonstrations after the election.
Pashinyan, 46, swung a hammer during rallies, while Kocharyan, 66, said he would be ready to fight the prime minister in a duel, claiming he intended to direct the vote.
According to Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands report from Yerevan, people hoped that ‘these two-year-old elections will give the winner some popular legitimacy and give them five years … to start wrestling with. [the country’s] issues. ”
According to Challands, however, morale is low.
“We have spoken to the people who have said that essentially none of the politicians offered find them more particularly attractive, and they are still deep in the trauma of their losses, just like the whole country,” Challands added. .
‘Time for change’
Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, largely a ceremonial figure, has rejected attempts to incite hatred and enmity and urged law enforcement to prevent violations.
“These elections are taking place in a difficult situation,” he said on Saturday. “This is crucial for our state and the people.”
Pashinyan says he had to agree to the ceasefire with Azerbaijan mediated by Moscow to prevent further human and territorial losses.
According to the latest estimates from Armenia and Azerbaijan, more than 6,500 people were killed in the war.