By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The pro-presidential factions making up the parliament majority on Wednesday wrapped up debates on their promised reform of Armenia’s electoral legislation, failing to reach agreement on the two most important amendments.
One of them deals with the way the National Assembly should be elected in the future. Under the existing law, 75 members of the National Assembly are chosen on the party list basis, while the remaining 56 parliament seats are distributed in single-mandate constituencies scattered around the country.
Three parliamentary parties supporting President Robert Kocharian are pushing for a greater share of seats contested under the proportional representation system which they believe complicates vote manipulation. One of them, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), would altogether abolish the majoritarian system. One of its two coalition partners, the Orinats Yerkir Party, has said it would settle for a less radical change.
The parliament’s biggest faction controlled by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) opposes drastic changes in the existing electoral system. The People’s Deputy, a group of 17 non-partisan lawmakers elected in the constituencies, is even more categorical, opposing any increase in the number of party list seats.
Another bone of contention is the existing mechanism for the formation of commissions holding various-level elections. The Republicans indicated earlier that they would like to weaken Kocharian’s control of such bodies by allowing him to appoint only one of their members.
The president currently appoints three members of the Central Election Commission and its territorial divisions. The other commission members each represent a party or an alliance represented in the legislature.
The three coalition parties have instead reached agreement on other draft amendments to Armenia’s electoral code. They would, among other things, give election observers and candidate proxies greater access to the voting and counting process and raise the vote barrier allowing political alliances to enter the parliament to 7 percent. The threshold for parties contesting legislative elections single-handedly would remain at 5 percent.
The draft amendments will be put to the vote early next month. The opposition minority did not take part in the debates in line with its eight-month boycott of the parliament sessions.