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Armenian presidential election, 1996

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Title: Armenian presidential election, 1996  
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Subject: Levon Ter-Petrosyan, 1996 presidential election, Vazgen Manukyan
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Armenian presidential election, 1996

Armenian presidential election, 1996
1991 ←
22 September 1996 (1996-09-22)
→ 1998

Nominee Levon Ter-Petrosyan Vazgen Manukyan
Popular vote 908,613 618,764
Percentage 58.9% 40.1%

President before election

Levon Ter-Petrosyan

Elected President

Levon Ter-Petrosyan

Presidential elections were held in Armenia on 22 September 1996.[1] The result was a victory for Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who won 51.3% of the vote. Turnout was 60.3%.[2]


The 1996 presidential election was the second presidential election after Armenia's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. On 18 September 1996, few days before the election, the influential Defence Minister Vazgen Sargsyan stated that he is "satisfied with the situation." Addressing Ter-Petrosyan's supporters, he proclaimed that Armenia "will enter the 21st century victoriously and stable with Ter-Petrosyan."[3] The opposition parties (Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Paruyr Hayrikyan's Union for National Self-Determination, Aram Sargsyan's Democratic Party) consolidated around the former Karabakh Committee member and former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan.[4]


Candidate Party Votes %
Levon Ter-Petrosyan Pan-Armenian National Movement 646,888 51.3
Vazgen Manukyan National Democratic Union 516,129 41.0
Sergey Badalyan Armenian Communist Party 79,347 6.3
Ashot Manucharyan Scientific-Industrial Civic Union 7,529 0.6
None of the above 10,012 0.8
Invalid/blank votes 48,681 -
Total 1,308,548 100
Source: Nohlen et al.


The election was held on 22 September 1996, the day after the fifth anniversary of the independence of Armenia.[5] Both Ter-Petrosyan and Manukyan claimed victory.[6] Official results by the Central Electoral Commission recorded Ter-Petrosyan's victory in the first round with just above 50% of the total vote inf favor of the incumbent.[7] The observation and monitoring organizations were mostly critical of the conduct of the election.[8][4][9][10][11] OSCE observation mission found "serious violations of the election law."[12]

Protests and aftermath

Oppositional leader Vazgen Manukyan officially received 41% of the vote and denouncing them started mass demonstrations in the afternoon of 23 September claiming electoral fraud by Ter-Petrosyan's supporters. An estimated of 200,000 people gathered in Freedom Square to protest the election results.[13] On 25 September, the mass of 150,000 to 200,000 gathered in the same square. Manukyan led the demonstrators to Baghramyan Avenue, where the parliament building is located (the Electoral Commission was inside the building at the time). Later during the day, the protesters broke the fence surrounding the Armenian parliament and got into the building. They beat up the parliament speaker Babken Ararktsyan and vice-speaker Ara Sahakyan.[14] The security forces were brought into Yerevan to restore order. On the same day, Defence Minister Vazgen Sargsyan stated that "even if they [the opposition] win 100 percent of the votes, neither the Army nor the National Security and Interior Ministry would recognize such political leaders."[15] Sargsyan was later criticized by the West for such statement. Vazgen Sargsyan and Minister of National Security Serzh Sargsyan announced on the Public Television of Armenia that their respective agencies have prevented an attempted coup d'état.[14] The government sent tanks and troops to Yerevan to enforce the ban on rallies and demonstrations on 26 September 1996.[16] A number of opposition leaders were stripped off legal immunity.[16] Manukyan appealed to the Constitutional Court with the request for a new election, but it was rejected.[14]

Later developments

Few year after the election, Ter-Petrosyan's closest "power minister" Vano Siradeghyan claimed in an interview that Ter-Petrosyan fell into a three-month depression and that he wanted Vazgen Sargsyan and Siradeghyan to resign. According to him "the whole state apparatus was demoralized, paralyzed and no government was formed during [the ensuing] three months."[14] Despite these claims, in a February 1997 interview Ter-Petrosyan denied the rumors of the resignation of Vazgen Sargsyan stating that "rumors are the innocent thing–but in this case I think that they are extremely dangerous. I mean the resignation of Vazgen Sargsyan–scandals which–in my opinion–are not innocent. If it is misinformation–it is ill-intentioned misinformation." He accused the opposition led by Manukyan for being a power "for which political ambitions are more important than our army–the problem of Artsakh–the Armenian Cause–which they made their slogan." Ter-Petrosyan then accused the opposition in being irresponsible: "I don’t know the meaning of their existence–but [they] have made no positive contribution to the problem of Artsakh–be it certain individuals or political parties."[17]

Since 1995 until his resignation in February 1998, Ter-Petrosyan was being criticized for his alleged authoritarian rule.[18] History Professor Stephan H. Astourian of the University of California, Berkeley suggests that after crushing popular protest by "military force, legal recourse had been perverted, and a president had been elected fraudulently." Astourian claims that the elections "tarnished Ter-Petrosian’s image, but the West did not dwell on the problem." as "a weak president has his uses." The West increased the pressure on the non-democratically elected president on the Karabakh issue. Astourian believes that "even more than his image in the West, it was the president’s own self-image, his “ego ideal,” that was tarnished."[14]



External links

  • (Armenian) Ի՞նչ տեղի ունեցավ 1996–ի սեպտեմբերի 25-ին
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