1996 Armenian presidential election

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1996 Armenian presidential election

← 1991 22 September 1996 1998 →
Nominee Levon Ter-Petrosyan Vazgen Manukyan
Party HHSh NDU
Popular vote 646,888 516,129
Percentage 51.34% 40.97%

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 received 51% of the vote. Turnout was 60%.[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 defense 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]


Observation and monitoring organizations were mostly critical of the conduct of the elections.[5][4][6][7][8] The OSCE observation mission found "serious violations of the election law."[9]


Following the elections, both Ter-Petrosyan and Manukyan claimed victory.[10] Official results by the Central Electoral Commission recorded Ter-Petrosyan's victory in the first round with just above 50% of the total vote in favor of the incumbent.[11]

Levon Ter-PetrosyanPan-Armenian National Movement646,88851.34
Vazgen ManukyanNational Democratic Union516,12940.97
Sergey BadalyanArmenian Communist Party79,3476.30
Ashot ManucharyanScientific-Industrial Civic Union7,5290.60
None of the above10,0120.79
Valid votes1,259,90596.28
Invalid/blank votes48,6813.72
Total votes1,308,586100.00
Registered voters/turnout2,210,18959.21
Source: Nohlen et al.


Hrant Mikayelian, researcher at the Caucasus Institute, noted that in precincts where turnout was lower than 64% Manukyan received 49.6% of the votes, while Ter-Petrosyan received 41.1%. Mikayelian notes that while it is clear that widespread falsifications took place, it is impossible to say with certainty that Manukyan actually received over 50% of the votes in the first round.[12]

Protests and aftermath[edit]

1996 Armenian protests
Date23 September 1996 – 2 October 1996
Caused by
  • Alleged electoral fraud during the 1996 Armenian presidential election
  • Corruption
Resulted in
  • Protests suppressed by force
The National Assembly building in Yerevan

The leading opposition candidate Vazgen Manukyan officially received 41% of the vote. Claiming electoral fraud by the incumbent Ter-Petrosyan, Manukyan and his supporters began mass demonstrations in the afternoon of 23 September. An estimated of 200,000 people gathered in Freedom Square to protest the election results.[13] On 25 September, 150,000 to 200,000 of gathered in the same square in support of Manukyan. 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, Defense 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 this statement. Vazgen Sargsyan and Minister of National Security Serzh Sargsyan announced on public television 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 parliamentarians were stripped of legal immunity.[16] Manukyan appealed to the Constitutional Court with a request for a new election, but it was rejected.[14]

Later developments[edit]

In December 1998, Vano Siradeghyan, one of Ter-Petrosyan's closest allies and interior minister at the time of the 1996 election, claimed in an interview that Ter-Petrosyan fell into a three-month depression following the election and wanted him and Vazgen Sargsyan to resign.[17] According to Siradeghyan, "the whole state apparatus was demoralized, paralyzed and no government was formed during [the ensuing] three months."[14] Siradeghyan also appeared to admit that government had resorted to vote-rigging to secure Ter-Petrosyan's victory without a runoff election.[18][19] Siradeghyan left the position of interior minister in November 1996 and was appointed mayor of Yerevan, while Vazgen Sargsyan remained as defense minister after the election, despite rumors that he was to resign.[20]

From 1995 until his resignation in February 1998, Ter-Petrosyan was criticized for his alleged authoritarian rule.[21] 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]


  1. ^ Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I, p. 329 ISBN 0-19-924958-X
  2. ^ Nohlen et al., p. 336
  3. ^ "1996 թվականի սեպտեմբեր [September 1996]". Azg Daily (in Armenian). 26 September 2002. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Armenia: After the 1996 Presidential Elections". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 1 March 1997. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  5. ^ Astourian, Stephan H. (2001). From Ter-Petrosian to Kocharian: Leadership Change in Armenia (PDF). University of California, Berkeley. p. 43. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 June 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  6. ^ "Armenian Chief Is Winner". The New York Times. 30 September 1996. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  7. ^ Hughes, James R. (2002). Ethnicity and territory in the former Soviet Union: regions in conflict. London: Cass. p. 152. ISBN 9780714682105.
  8. ^ "Armenian Presidential Elections September 24, 1996 Final Report". Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  9. ^ Columbus, Frank H. (1999). Central and Eastern Europe in transition. 3 (1999). Commack, NY: Nova Publishers. p. 107. ISBN 9781560726876.
  10. ^ "Incumbent claims victory in Armenian elections". CNN. 23 September 1996. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  11. ^ "Armenians Cast Ballots in Presidential Election". The New York Times. 23 September 1996. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  12. ^ "Если бы выборы в Армении были честными? Альтернативный подсчет. 1990-е гг". kavkaz-uzel.eu (in Russian). 16 December 2018. Archived from the original on 29 June 2019.
  13. ^ Astourian 2001, p. 44.
  14. ^ a b c d e Astourian 2001, p. 45.
  15. ^ Human rights watch world report 1997: events of 1996. New York: Human Rights Watch. 1997. p. 198. ISBN 9781564322074.
  16. ^ a b Jeffries, Ian (2003). The Caucasus and Central Asian Republics at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century: A guide to the economies in transition. New York: Routledge. p. 57. ISBN 9780203358474.
  17. ^ Danielyan, Emil (9 January 1999). "Armenia: 1996 Presidential Election Was Rigged, Aide Suggests". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  18. ^ Danielyan, Emil (9 January 1999). "Armenia: 1996 Presidential Election Was Rigged, Aide Suggests". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2013. There, he said, they received what he called "distressing news" from local election precincts that indicated Ter-Petrossian had not won a majority of votes, and that a second-round run-off would therefore be necessary.. According to Siradeghian, he then asked Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, "Is Levon ready for a second round?" Sarkisian said: 'No, he is not ready.' And in fact, the second round did not take place."
  19. ^ Danielyan, Emil (9 January 1999). "Armenia: Ter-Petrossian Criticizes Charges Against Old Ally". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Archived from the original on 9 December 2019. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  20. ^ "Ter Petrosyan Denies Defense Minister's Resignation Rumors". Asbarez. 20 February 1997. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  21. ^ Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia: 2003. Taylor & Francis. 2002. pp. 79–80. ISBN 9781857431377.

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