A senior representative of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) met President Serzh Sarkisian and leaders of Armenia’s main political forces on Wednesday during a fact-finding visit aimed at assessing recent political developments in the country.
Axel Fischer, a PACE co-rapporteur on Armenia, refused to comment on his meetings, saying only that he and the other co-rapporteur, John Prescott, are now working on a report that will be discussed by the Strasbourg-based assembly this fall.
The Armenian presidential press office said Sarkisian and Fischer discussed “reforms implemented in various areas and internal political developments in Armenia.” It gave no details.
Fischer discussed these issues also with Levon Ter-Petrosian, the top leader of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). An HAK statement said Ter-Petrosian briefed him on the ongoing dialogue between the opposition alliance and the ruling coalition.
It said they discussed HAK demands for fresh national elections and ways of eliminating chronic vote rigging in the country. “Also discussed was the interconnection between the mechanism for vote falsifications and the criminal state system established in Armenia,” added the statement.
PACE officials have welcomed the HAK-government dialogue, which was made possible by the recent release of all opposition members remaining in prison. The Council of Europe has for years pressed the Sarkisian administration to free those individuals and embark on political reforms.
Fischer also held separate meetings with parliamentary leaders of the five Armenian parties represented in the National Assembly.
“The co-rapporteur made a highly positive evaluation of recent steps taken by the Armenian authorities,” said Naira Zohrabian of the pro-government Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). “Namely, the amnesty and the release of detainees.”
“He also made a highly positive evaluation of the recently amended Electoral Code,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
The Armenian authorities amended the code as part of sweeping reforms promised to the Council of Europe. The opposition dismisses those amendments, saying that they are not conducive to the proper conduct of the next elections.
Parliament deputies from the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage) party reiterated this view at their meeting with Fischer. They argued that the new Central Election Commission (CEC) formed by the authorities last week is dominated by government loyalists.