The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) indicated on Thursday that it will likely block the passage of major amendments to electoral legislation that will be tabled by the opposition minority in parliament.
“We will discuss [amendments] to the Electoral Code. But we will do that against the backdrop of constitutional reforms [planned by President Serzh Sarkisian,]” said Galust Sahakian, the parliament speaker and a deputy chairman of the HHK.
Another senior HHK lawmaker, Gagik Melikian, said that amending the code now would be “untimely.” He claimed at the same time that the Armenian government and its loyal parliamentary majority are ready to discuss this and other opposition demands.
The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), Prosperous Armenia and Zharangutyun parties said this week that the government should prove its declared commitment to dialogue by allowing the passage of what they consider major safeguards against vote rigging. They said they will initiate an extraordinary parliament session that will debate corresponding amendments drafted by them.
Karen Avagian, an HHK parliamentarian, said the opposition demands are a “precondition” unacceptable to the ruling party. “We are prepared for constructive work,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We are prepared to hear reasonable proposals. But that must be within the bounds of common sense. There must be no demands or preconditions.”
The opposition trio wants Armenia’s next parliamentary elections to be held only on a party-list basis, something which would reduce the HHK’s chances of retaining control over the National Assembly.
Under the existing Electoral Code, 90 assembly seats are contested under the proportional representation system, while the 41 others are distributed in nationwide single-mandate constituencies.
Another amendment to the code drafted by the HAK, the BHK and Zharangutyun would require election officials to publish lists of voters who went to the polls. Leaders of the three parties say this would all but preclude multiple voting in favor of the HHK.