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Parliament Majority To Boycott Opposition-Initiated Debate


Armenia - Deputies from the ruling Republican Party attend a parliament session, Yerevan, 09Feb2012.

Armenia - Deputies from the ruling Republican Party attend a parliament session, Yerevan, 09Feb2012.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) on Tuesday reaffirmed its intention to boycott and thereby thwart a planned parliament session on an opposition-drafted bill aimed at complicating fraud in the upcoming presidential election.

The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) collected enough signatures of deputies last week to force a formal debate on its draft amendments to the Electoral Code.

The main target of the amendments is Armenia’s allegedly inflated vote registers which the HAK and other opposition groups say are a key source of electoral fraud in the country. One of the proposed changes would remove hundreds of thousands of Armenians living abroad from the electoral rolls.

The HHK majority in the National Assembly rejected this and other amendments out of hand, saying that it will boycott the session scheduled for Wednesday. It again denied opposition claims that fraudulent voting on behalf of citizens absent from the country has been the norm in recent years.

In order to go ahead, Armenian parliament sessions must be attended by at least 66 members of the 131-seat assembly. The HAK and other minority factions, which backed the bill, hold only 53 seats between them.

In a last-ditch attempt to prevent the HHK boycott, the HAK offered what it called a compromise to the ruling party on Tuesday. “We are ready to accept the most important objections voiced by the Republican Party,” Levon Zurabian, the opposition bloc’s parliamentary leader, told reporters. He said the HAK is ready to drop two of the draft amendments that obligate electoral authorities to publicize the lists of voters casting ballots in an election and place limits on voting by military personnel.

Eduard Sharmazanov, the HHK spokesman and a deputy parliament speaker, dismissed the offer as a “political ploy.” “We have already made a decision on the matter. The issue is closed for us,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

Sharmazanov argued that the Electoral Code was already amended shortly before last May’s parliamentary elections which he described as the most democratic in Armenia’s history. The Armenian opposition considers those elections fraudulent.

Zurabian stressed that the HHK is the only major political force opposed to the HAK bill. “This isolation underlines the fact that the ruling regime does not want to hold free and fair elections in Armenia,” he said. “They are afraid of even devoting one parliament sitting to that issue.”
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