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Election Time in the South Caucasus

Aliev expected to win easily in Azerbaijan, while odds are Armenia’s outgoing president will pull a Putin.

10 April 2018

The swearing-in ceremony yesterday for Armenia’s new president, Armen Sarkissian, barely made international headlines, reflecting the job’s downgrading to a largely ceremonial role.

 

Opposition leaders reckon outgoing President Serzh Sargsyan will seek nomination as prime minister in a bid to remain in power after two terms as head of state, according to RFE/RL.

 

The next prime minister will wield unprecedented powers thanks to a 2015 referendum that laid the groundwork for a parliamentary-style system. All indications are that Sargsyan will be named prime minister next week, which will place him in charge of the economy, foreign policy, and security, EurActiv writes.

 

For both politicians, propping up the Armenian-backed unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh without unduly angering Azerbaijan will prove a conundrum.

 

Image from President Armen Sarkissian's inauguration, via president.am

 

“Some pro-government Armenians cite the volatility of the Karabakh conflict as one reason why the country needs [Serzh] Sargsyan to continue, as a steady head on the tiller,” Carnegie Europe senior fellow Thomas de Waal writes.

 

Some observers suggest it is no coincidence that Azerbaijan’s leader, Ilham Aliev, brought forward presidential elections from October to 11 April, sending a message to the new administration in Yerevan. Running practically unopposed, the popular, authoritarian Aliev is all but certain to win re-election, EurActiv says.

 

Major opposition parties are boycotting tomorrow’s election, Reuters reports.

 

"We are certain that the election results will be rigged and Ilham Aliev will be announced the winner again," said Jamil Hasanli, head of the National Council of Democratic Forces, the Azeri opposition coalition.

 

 

  • Armen Sarkissian, 64, whose name is also spelled Sargsyan, is a former physicist and Armenian ambassador to the UK. He is unrelated to Serzh Sargsyan.

 

  • He had transferred all his business holdings to a family foundation, Sarkissian told RFE in February, according to independent Armenian media outlet Hetq. Financial disclosures he filed indicated cash holdings of 8 million euros ($9.8 million) in 2013, and 5.5 million euros in 2017.

 

  • Hasanli told the Caucasus news site OC Media that Aliev brought elections forward to take the opposition off guard. “The public must be warned about early elections,” he said. “The government wants to hold the elections at a more favorable time, and without international attention.”

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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