By Karine Kalantarian
The number of political parties operating in Armenia has more than halved since entry into force last month of a new law that sets more stringent rules for their registration and activities, a senior official said on Monday.
Tigran Mukuchian, a deputy minister of justice, told RFE/RL that only 45 out of 116 parties that formally existed until recently have been re-registered under the law adopted by parliament in November 2002. Mukuchian said eight parties have had their applications rejected and several others disappeared after political mergers. More than 50 other political groups, that hardly showed any signs of activity, did not even apply for registration before the November 17 deadline, he added.
Those parties that were denied official registration are little known to the public and are not represented in the National Assembly. The most famous of them is the opposition Social Democrat Hnchakian Party, one of the oldest in Armenia.
Hnchakian is a member of the country’s largest opposition alliance, Artarutyun, and the authorities’ refusal to reaffirm its legal status prompted allegations of political bias. The Justice Ministry, however, insists that it acted in accordance with the new law which stipulates among other things that a party must have at least 200 members and branches in at least one third of Armenia’s regions.
All of the eight parties may again file for registration. Some, including Hnchakian, have already made additional changes in their statutes.
Mukuchian complained that the law does not clarify the fate of the parties that fail to win official registration. They are not explicitly required to formally disband themselves, he said.
Twenty-one Armenian parties and electoral blocs contested the most recent parliamentary elections held on May 25 and criticized as deeply flawed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Only six of them won any parliament seats.