By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian said on Wednesday that his Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) has accepted “in principle” its junior coalition partners’ demands for new parliamentary election rules favoring the proportional representation system.
The row over the issue, crucial for the make-up of Armenia’s future parliaments, has pitted the HHK against the Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties, threatening to end their cooperation in President Robert Kocharian’s coalition government.
Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir have been pushing for an electoral reform that would increase from 75 to at least 91 the number of parliament seats contested on the party list basis. The change would lead to a corresponding reduction of the 56 individually contested seats.
Kocharian reportedly backed the proposed formula during his last meeting with the coalition leaders on Friday. Markarian indicated that the Republicans too have agreed to it.
“Of course, the HHK board has not yet approved it. But we find such a ratio quite realistic,” he said, adding that relevant amendments will be debated by the Kocharian-controlled National Assembly in February.
The coalition deal has not yet won the backing of another major parliamentary force, the People’s Deputy group of pro-Kocharian deputies not affiliated with any party. They sided with the Republicans on the issue, refusing to make any concessions.
The question of how to elect Armenia’s parliament is important for outcome of next elections. During the last legislative elections held in May 2003 the bulk of the single-mandate individual constituencies were won by wealthy government-connected candidates that routinely resorted to vote bribes. Many of them are affiliated with the HHK and the People’s Deputy.