By Hrach Melkumian
Leaders of the three parties represented in Armenia’s government reported at the weekend progress during their fresh talks to end a bitter dispute over parliamentary election rules which were mediated by President Robert Kocharian.
The cautiously upbeat statements came amid reports that Kocharian is pressing Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s Republican Party (HHK) to satisfy the demands of its junior coalition partners, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Orinats Yerkir Party. Sources in the latter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Kocharian is now backing their calls for increasing the number of parliament seats contested on the party list basis.
However, the claims were implicitly denied by Tigran Torosian, an HHK leader, who accused coalition allies of spreading disinformation to prop up their bargaining position. “I don’t think it is moral when certain people, instead of talking about which key issues were discussed and which key decisions were taken at such meetings, begin to trade with some journalists to ensure news reports desirable for them,” he told RFE/RL.
Torosian said the coalition leaders agreed to continue to look for a mutually acceptable formula during a meeting with Kocharian late on Friday. He said the election rules will be included in a package of amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code that will be sent to the Council of Europe for examination and debated by the Armenian parliament in the final reading next spring.
The Republicans backed by the People’s Deputy group of non-partisan lawmakers oppose any serious change in the existing mechanism for the parliament’s formation that assigns 75 seats to the proportional system and the 56 others to individual constituencies. Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir, by contrast, insist that the number of party-list seats be raised to at least 91. The disagreements have threatened to split the ruling coalition.
“We are not going to give in,” said Orinats Yerkir’s parliamentary leader, Samvel Balasanian. “We will not change our position on that issue.”