Representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) Party also told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that they have come up with an alternative reform plan which they believe would tackle chronic vote rigging in the country in earnest.
The PACE has pressed the Armenian authorities to carry out wide-ranging political reforms that would address the lingering political fallout from the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan. It received a “roadmap” of relevant measures from parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian earlier this year. Those largely involve fresh changes in Armenia’s electoral, judicial and law-enforcement legislation.
The PACE Monitoring Committee’s two co-rapporteurs on Armenia, John Prescott and Georges Colombier, gave a mixed preliminary assessment of the plan in June. While expressing their overall “satisfaction” with the planned reform of the Armenian police and judiciary, they said the authorities in Yerevan have so far failed to cooperate with the opposition in drawing up a new electoral code.
The Armenian parliament majority subsequently asked the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission to examine and pass judgment on a draft code submitted by it. According to Stepan Safarian, Zharangutyun’s parliamentary leader, majority leaders falsely claimed that the opposition minority was also involved in the document’s elaboration.
Armenia -- Armen Rustamian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation party, undated
“We were taken by surprise and replied that we not only have nothing to do with that draft but are against it,” Safarian said. Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun went on to draft an alternative plan of electoral reforms and sent it to the Venice Commission “as a counterweight,” he added.
“We decided to send our package because it is expected that representatives of the Venice Commission will visit Yerevan in September,” explained Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader. “We will then have a frank conversation with them.”
Both Safarian and Rustamian claimed that the parliament majority is ready to enact only “cosmetic” measures that would not preclude various irregularities that have marred just about every election held in Armenia since independence. In their words, an 11-point document drawn up by the two opposition parties envisages far more radical changes.
One of those changes, which is certain to be rejected by the Armenian government, would give the pro-government and opposition groups holding seats in the National Assembly equal representation in various-level election commissions. Under another proposal, the latter would have to videotape voting and counting of ballots and publish all election-related documents.
Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun also want all 131 parliament seats to be contested on the party list basis. Under the existing electoral legislation, 56 of those seats are distributed in single-mandate constituencies across the country.
Davit Harutiunian, a senior pro-government lawmaker who heads the Armenian delegation at the PACE and is the main author of the government-backed draft sent to the Venice Commission, could not be reached for comment on Monday.