The Armenian National Congress (HAK) said on Thursday that it is ready to join forces with other major opposition groups to draft legal safeguards against vote rigging ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
HAK coordinator Levon Zurabian said the bloc as well as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and Zharangutyun (Heritage) parties could jointly propose corresponding amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code.
“If there is such a common platform it will be possible to raise the issue in the parliament and achieve legislative changes,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Naturally, there will be a need for pressure on the authorities. But that pressure will be much more effective if there is a common platform that wins the international community’s support.”
Zurabian argued that all three opposition forces have very similar views on what needs to be done to complicate electoral fraud. In particular, he said, they agree that the authorities should hold the May 2012 polls on a solely party-list basis as well as ink voters’ fingers and publicize lists of citizens who cast their ballots in order to prevent fraudulent voting on behalf of many voters absent from Armenia.
Zharangutyun leader Raffi Hovannisian advocated these and other changes in a recent open letter which challenged President Serzh Sarkisian to prove the seriousness of his administration’s pledges to hold the most democratic election in Armenia’s history. Sarkisian rejected the appeal, saying that Hovannisian is not acting in good faith.
The Armenian authorities already enacted in May numerous amendments to the Electoral Code that were welcomed by the West. U.S. and European officials say they bode well for the proper conduct of the forthcoming elections. The HAK, Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun strongly disagree with that.
Zurabian claimed that the Sarkisian administration will demonstrate that it plans to rig the vote if it rejects a common opposition stance. He said although the HAK has not yet discussed the idea with Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun he believes “practical steps” towards its implementation could be taken soon.
Reacting to this statement, Armen Martirosian, a leading Zharangutyun member, said cautiously that his party will be ready to accept the HAK proposal “if we see that it’s possible to take joint steps towards that goal.” Dashnaktsutyun representatives declined to comment.
Relations among the three opposition forces are quite strained now. HAK leaders questioned Dashnaktsutyun’s and Zharangutyun’s opposition credentials earlier this year.