Representatives of Armenia’s two main governing parties on Thursday rejected opposition calls for the abolition of parliamentary elections held in single-mandate constituencies.
Armenian law reserves 41 of the 131 seats in the National Assembly for such constituencies. The remaining deputies are elected on the party list basis.
The country’s leading opposition forces have long been demanding that the system of proportional representation be extended to the entire assembly, saying that it carries more safeguards against electoral fraud. They say voters electing individual parliamentarians in their districts are more vulnerable to government intimidation and vote buying.
The opposition says this is the reason why opposition candidates rarely win in the single-mandate districts. The vast majority of those seats are now held by wealthy and government-connected individuals.
Senior lawmakers from the ruling Republican Party (HHK) and its coalition partner, the Prosperous Armenia (BHK), dismissed the opposition arguments at a roundtable discussion in Yerevan. They argued that most Armenian parties are small and have few members and structures outside Yerevan.
“In order to have a 100 percent proportional representation system, we need to form an environment in which political forces have a 100 percent involvement in political life,” said the HHK’s Hovannes Sahakian.
“Let’s not forget that our constitution guarantees a person’s right to elect and get elected,” said the BHK’s Naira Zohrabian. “And if we switch to a 100 percent proportional representation system, then what should we do with that constitutional provision?”
Opposition figures attending the debate disagreed. Ruben Hakobian, deputy chairman of the Zharangutyun (Heritage) party, described the individual constituencies as “hotbeds of evil,” while Armen Rustamian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, said elections held there facilitate “reproduction” of incumbent authorities.