Armenia’s leading opposition forces remained adamant in rejecting electoral reforms proposed by President Serzh Sarkisian’s governing coalition as they met with European election experts on Tuesday.
The experts from the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe discussed the issue with representatives of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party on the first day of a fact-finding visit to Yerevan. The visit is aimed at assessing the Armenian authorities’ stated efforts to improve the conduct of elections in the country.
The authorities have pledged to carry out these and other political reforms under pressure from the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). The pro-government majority in the Armenian parliament has already drafted fresh amendments to the Electoral Code and submitted them to another Council of Europe institution, the Venice Commission, for examination.
In separate meetings with the Venice Commission and OSCE experts, Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun lawmakers reiterated their claims that the government draft would not address chronic vote rigging in Armenia. Armen Martirosian, Zharangutyun, said the authorities would retain “numerous opportunities for carrying out vote falsifications.”
“This gives us no hope that the authorities are preparing to hold normal elections,” Martirosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Dashnaktsutyun’s Artyusha Shahbazian said he and other deputies from his party urged the two European bodies to help ensure that an alternative electoral reform package jointly drafted by Dashnaktsutyun is not ignored by the ruling coalition.
The opposition package was sent to the Venice Commission this summer. “They have received our proposals and said they are still looking into them,” said Martirosian.
The HAK, which is not represented in the parliament, presented the visiting experts with a separate 7-point plan of electoral reform, according to Vladimir Karapetian, a senior member of the opposition alliance. Karapetian declined to disclose changes sought by the HAK, saying only that they are “mainly of technical nature.”
“We believe that by accepting the proposals made by the opposition and international organizations the authorities will show whether they have the political will to change the conduct of elections,” Karapetian told RFE/RL.
The experts will meet with parliamentary leaders of the three parties represented in Armenia’s government on Wednesday.