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By Ruzanna Stepanian
One of Armenia’s largest opposition groups said on Monday that it has been effectively frozen out of the Central Election Commission (CEC) over its boycott of last November’s disputed constitutional referendum.

Armenia’s electoral code entitles the National Unity Party (AMK) of Artashes Geghamian to controlling one of the nine seats in the CEC and its lower-level divisions handling local and national elections.

The AMK member of the CEC, Zaven Pluzian, demonstratively resigned from the government-controlled body ahead of the November referendum only to be re-appointed to the post by Geghamian shortly after the vote boycotted by the Armenian opposition. Under Armenian law, the appointment must be formally endorsed by President Robert Kocharian. However, the latter has still not signed a relevant decree.

The AMK’s deputy chairman, Aleksan Karapetian, suggested that Kocharian was infuriated by Pluzian’s resignation and is now striking back. He said Geghamian’s party wrote to Kocharian recently to demand an explanation and is still awaiting a reply.

“Our seat in the Central Election Commission has been vacant for eight or nine months and we are unable to carry out our duties stemming from the electoral code,” Karapetian told RFE/RL. “I don’t know how long this illegality will continue. Maybe Mr. Kocharian knows.”

Kocharian’s spokesman, Victor Soghomonian, could not give any reasons for the delay, saying only that the law does not set any time frames for the presidential endorsement of CEC members. “The president will sign [the decree] when he finds it necessary,” he said.

Karapetian said the AMK fears that Kocharian will delay Pluzian’s reinstatement until after next year’s parliamentary election and thereby thwart the party’s involvement in the conduct of the polls. He said although lower-level commission members affiliated with the AMK continue to perform their duties, they are effectively unable to participate in mandatory training courses without letters of reference from a member of the CEC representing their party.

The ongoing courses and seminars are mandatory for all election officials across Armenia. Under the electoral code, those who fail to attend them are subject to dismissal.

(Photolur photo: Artashes Geghamian.)
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