By Anna Saghabalian
President Robert Kocharian and his three-party governing coalition have agreed in principle to increase the number of parliament seats contested under the system of proportional representation of political parties, a senior official said on Wednesday.
The issue has been a key sticking point in the coalition attempts to reach consensus on reforming Armenia’s electoral legislation. Recent debates on the issue in the National Assembly exposed serious differences between the three pro-presidential parties making up the parliament majority.
One of them, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), wants all 131 members of the next parliament to be elected on the party list basis. Only 75 of the current lawmakers entered the parliament under that system in the May 2003 elections. The 56 other deputies were elected in single-mandate constituencies.
Dashnaktsutyun’s senior coalition partner, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) was until now opposed to any change in the electoral system. The position of the third coalition party, Orinats Yerkir, has been more ambiguous.
Tigran Torosian, the deputy parliament speaker and an HHK leader, effectively confirmed reports that Kocharian supported the idea of increasing the number of party list seats at a meeting with the coalition leaders on Friday. But he would not specify whether they have already agreed on the new ratio of the seats.
Torosian disputed Dashnaktsutyun’s arguments, backed by the Armenian opposition, that the proportional system complicates various forms of election falsifications, notably vote buying which is increasingly commonplace during the individual contests. He openly implied that all three coalition parties included wealthy businessmen on their proportional lists in exchange for cash during the last elections.
“Everyone should look at their proportional list,” Torosian told reporters. “Do they include people with a lot of money but no political experience? Fairness obliges me to state that such people were included on all slates.”