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Ex-President Backs Key Electoral Reform Sought By Armenian Opposition


Former President of Armenia Robert Kocharian (archive photo).

Former President of Armenia Robert Kocharian (archive photo).


Former president Robert Kocharian has added his voice of support to what has been a key reform demanded by the Armenian opposition in recent month implying that the nation’s parliament should be elected from representatives of political parties only.

Most of the leading opposition parties or blocs contesting last May’s elections to the National Assembly of Armenia sought the kind of change in the election laws to abolish the current order of forming the legislature where 41 out of 131 members are elected from single-member constituencies.

Among the advocates of the reform was also the main opposition bloc, Armenian National Congress (HAK) and the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK). The latter also named the reform as one of the two key proposals for possible broad-based opposition cooperation ahead of next year’s presidential ballot.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), which is expected to nominate its leader and current president Serzh Sarkisian for reelection in the February ballot, has strongly opposed the reform, insisting that a two-tier parliament is needed in that case as the all-proportional ballot system will leave a considerable number of areas without their elected representatives.

In an interview given to his unofficial website on Tuesday, the second president of Armenia said that “majority-vote elections in Armenia fuel the process of feudalization of territories within the borders of these districts, and the authorities, voluntarily or not, contribute to it as they are motivated to reproduce themselves.”

“This is an extremely harmful phenomenon, and the sooner we give it up the better. This is why the number of single-mandate MPs has reduced several times in our country. I’m sorry I haven’t finished this process. Why? The answer is simple: the power wanted to have an advantage due to single-mandate districts,” Kocharian added.

At the same time, the former leader voiced his disagreement with the second reform proposed by the BHK and some other political forces opposed to the Sarkisian government, which is curbing presidential powers and turning Armenia into a parliamentary republic.

“If I were a staunch supporter of a parliamentary form of government, it would have been introduced in Armenia after the 2005 constitutional referendum,” said Kocharian. “You can run the state incompetently or wisely either as a president or a prime minister… The question is not the form of government but the correct set of checks and balances, performance of the current political structure, traditions and maturity of the civil society.”

“The BHK proposal is rather a reaction to the obvious imbalance in the correlation of real rights and constitutional responsibilities of various government institutions in the country,” he stressed.

In what was likely a further covert reproach to his successor Sarkisian, Kocharian added that the constitutional reform carried out during his presidency had significantly expanded the authorities of the government. “But in practice the role of the government has noticeably reduced,” he said.

At the same time, Kocharian denied influencing the political agenda of the BHK, a party believed to be his brainchild and current political support base in Armenia. Set up not long before the 2007 parliamentary elections, the BHK, led by millionaire businessman Gagik Tsarukian, was thought to represent the interests of Kocharian, the then outgoing president, in the parliament dominated by the HHK, the party of his political ally and future president Sarkisian.

The HHK reacted sharply to the latest calls by the BHK for a constitutional reform implying a move from the current presidential form of government. Its spokesman Eduard Sharmazanov said last week that “people who have no chance of coming to power with their own face and without being shrouded” are behind the BHK’s “sudden” support for such a transformation. Local pundits were quick to construe Sharmazanov’s remarks as a reference to Kocharian.

“I would like to give advice to those very “smart” people who see my shadow everywhere: open your eyes and finally see that the BHK has created a team which is able to independently form the party’s political agenda,” the former president concluded.
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