By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s new Central Election Commission (CEC) held its first meeting on Wednesday, overwhelmingly electing one of its members appointed by President Robert Kocharian as its chairman.
Garegin Azarian already headed the previous CEC that was disbanded last week in accordance with amendments to Armenia’s election law enacted last May. His easy reelection underscored Kocharian’s and his allies’ continuing control of state bodies charged with administering various-level elections.
The Armenian president named until recently three of the nine members of the CEC and its territorial divisions, with the rest of the commission seats controlled by the parties and blocs represented in parliament. The amended law allows him to appoint only one member of each commission and gives the two other seats to representatives of Armenia’s Court of Appeals and the People’s Deputy group of pro-presidential deputies not affiliated with any party.
But with the Armenian parliament and courts loyal to the head of state, Kocharian and his governing coalition will retain their overwhelming control of electoral processes. Only two of the nine CEC members represent the opposition. Opposition leaders say this will lead to a repeat of serious irregularities that marred the previous Armenian elections.
The new CEC’s first task will be the holding of potentially tense local elections and a referendum on constitutional amendments this fall.