By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Pro-government factions in the Armenian parliament were on Tuesday accused by the opposition of planning to manipulate next year’s elections as they pushed for major changes in the election law.
The largest Miasnutyun faction and other groups supporting President Robert Kocharian want to allow the latter to appoint nearly half of the members of all electoral commissions. Under the existing law the commissions are formed by the government and major political parties.
Opposition factions claimed that Kocharian wants to control the entire electoral process to win another five-year term in office next year. Some of their members speculated that the election law amendments are a prelude to the dissolution of the parliament and fresh legislative elections.
Under the proposed changes, the new mechanism for the formation of election commissions would not be put in place until after next parliamentary elections. They are due to take place in May 2003, roughly two months after the planned presidential vote. Kocharian can ensure that the presidential race takes place after the legislative polls if he disbands the National Assembly by next fall.
Another significant change sought by Miasnutyun would again allow Armenian servicemen to vote in precincts located near their military units. Voting by the military has been one of the main sources of irregularities in various Armenian polls.
One of the Miasnutyun leaders, deputy parliament speaker Tigran Torosian, urged the opposition deputies to approve the changes in the first reading, assuring them that the pro-presidential majority is ready to accept some of their objections.
The parliament on Tuesday finished debates on the draft amendments and may vote on them as early as Wednesday.