By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian assured visiting parliamentarians from the European Union on Wednesday that he is committed to bringing Armenia’s political system into conformity with European standards.
“We see the future of Armenia, which has opted for the European path of development, in efficient governance, an efficient political system and economy,” he was quoted by his press service as telling a delegation of the European Parliament. “And that can only be achieved through profound and large-scale reforms.”
The presidential press release did not specify whether Kocharian made any reference to proper conduct of elections or whether he said their freedom and fairness is one of the aims of those reforms.
Kocharian has repeatedly promised in the past to turn Armenia into “the most organized state in the region.” It remains unclear if he meant by that a Western-style liberal democracy where vote rigging is virtually non-existent .
None of the elections held by the Kocharian administration has been deemed democratic by Europe and the United States. As recently as last December, the EU criticized Yerevan for serious irregularities reported during the November 27 referendum on government-drafted amendments to Armenia’s constitution. The irregularities “call into question Armenia's commitment to transparency and democracy,” the EU said in a statement.
The visiting members of the European Parliament were in Yerevan to attend a regular session of the commission on EU-Armenia inter-parliamentary cooperation. Marie-Anne Isler Beguin, the French co-chair of the commission, stressed the importance of ensuring the freedom and fairness of the next Armenian parliamentary and presidential elections.
“I know that there have been many shortcomings in past Armenian elections,” she told reporters on Tuesday. “Democracy is impossible without respect for [European electoral] norms.”
Isler Beguin indicated that holding free elections will be among Armenia’s commitments stemming from its inclusion in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) program which entitles EU neighbors to privileged partnership with the bloc. The Armenian government has been negotiating with the EU over its ENP-related “action plan” since November. Kocharian expressed hope that the plan will be signed “as soon as possible.”
(Presidential press service photo: Kocharian greeting Isler Beguin.)