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Opposition Wants Parliament Debate On Voting Reform


Armenia - Levon Zurabian, deputy chairman of the opposition Armenian National Congress, at a news conference in Yerevan, 14Nov2014.

Armenia - Levon Zurabian, deputy chairman of the opposition Armenian National Congress, at a news conference in Yerevan, 14Nov2014.

The opposition minority in the National Assembly will initiate an emergency parliament session to try to push through major changes in Armenia’s electoral legislation, a leader of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) said on Sunday.

Levon Zurabian said the HAK and its two opposition allies -- the Prosperous Armenia (BHK) and Zharangutyun (Heritage) parties -- will thus test President Serzh Sarkisian’s stated commitment to dialogue with them.

Responding to a series of nationwide protests staged by the three parties, Sarkisian said last week that the Armenian government should “once again address” a list of 12 political and socioeconomic demands that was issued by them in June. The most important of those demands relates to the conduct of national elections.

The opposition trio is pushing for parliamentary elections held only under the system of proportional representation, something which would reduce the ruling Republican Party’s (HHK) chances of retaining control over the Armenian parliament. The opposition trio also wants electoral commissions to release lists of voters who cast ballots in elections, saying that this would prevent multiple fraudulent voting in favor of the HHK. Sarkisian and his party have opposed such changes until now.

The HAK, the BHK and Zharangutyun control about one-third of the parliament seats and are in a position to force a parliament debate on the issue. However, the HHK majority in the National Assembly can scuttle such a debate by boycotting the extraordinary session initiated by the trio.

“Serzh Sarkisian has two options: to reject our proposals through a boycott of the parliament session or accept them,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “In the latter case we won’t be holding negotiations [with the president.] We will be making our move and he will be making his move.”

Zurabian reiterated the HAK’s view that the opposition should negotiate with Sarkisian only on the terms of his resignation and the holding of snap presidential and parliamentary elections. He said that the opposition party headed by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian believes that Sarkisian should face nonstop opposition protests if he refuses to discuss a “handover of power.”

The BHK, the most influential of the three opposition forces, is treading more carefully. Unlike the HAK and Zharangutyun, the party led by businessman Gagik Tsarukian believes that the trio should not rush to hold another anti-government rally in Yerevan.

Stepan Markarian, a senior BHK figure, reaffirmed this stance on Monday. Markarian said that the three parties should solve their “structural issues” before again rallying supporters.

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