A senior official from the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) welcomed on Thursday the dialogue between Armenia’s governing coalition and leading opposition force following a fact-finding visit to Yerevan.
“I am very satisfied with the start of this dialogue, a long-standing wish of the Assembly, which is essential for the ongoing normalization of the political environment in Armenia,” Axel Fischer, a PACE co-rapporteur on Armenia, said in a statement. “I call on all parties to display maximum flexibility and good faith to make it a success.”
Fischer referred to the first contacts between representatives of President Serzh Sarkisian’s three-party coalition and the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK). He expressed hope that the Sarkisian administration will also engage in a “similar constructive dialogue” with two other major opposition groups.
The German parliamentarian met with Sarkisian, HAK leader Levon Ter-Petrosian and parliamentary leaders of the five political parties represented in the Armenian parliament in Yerevan on Wednesday.
In three resolutions adopted in as many years, the PACE has urged the Armenian authorities to release all opposition members arrested after the 2008 post-election unrest and embark on political reforms to avoid similar political crises in the future. Fischer and the other PACE rapporteur, John Prescott, plan to draft another resolution that will be discussed at the autumn session of the Strasbourg-based assembly.
Fischer said he discussed with Sarkisian and other Armenian officials their pledges to reform the country’s law-enforcement, judicial and electoral systems. He said he stressed the importance of properly conducting Armenia’s next parliamentary election due in May 2012.
“The new election code [adopted in May] provides a solid basis for democratic elections but it must now be implemented in good faith, both in letter and spirit,” added the PACE representative. “Electoral stakeholders, especially the general public in Armenia, must have full trust in the electoral process and its outcome.”
Armenia’s main opposition groups have downplayed the significance of the amended code. They say the Sarkisian government blocked more sweeping amendments proposed by them and will continue to control various-level election commissions.