The ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) blocked on Tuesday an opposition bill on electoral reforms that would reduce its chances of retaining control over parliament in the next legislative elections.
The bill drafted by the Armenian National Congress (HAK), Prosperous Armenia and Zharangutyun parties was backed by 54 deputies, among them members of two other opposition parties represented in the National Assembly. Fifty-nine other deputies, almost all of them HHK members, voted against its passage.
The proposed amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code called for the conduct of the next parliamentary elections only under the system of proportional representation. The HAK, the BHK and Zharangutyun say that this would increase chances of their freedom and fairness.
In the last Armenian elections held in 2012, 90 of the 131 seats in the National Assembly were contested on a party-list basis. The remaining 41 seats were distributed in nationwide single-mandate constituencies. The HHK retained its parliamentary majority in those polls thanks to its very strong showing in those constituencies, which opposition groups attribute to vote buying and other irregularities.
The bill blocked by the HHK also envisaged that electoral commissions would release the lists of voters who cast ballots in elections. The Armenian opposition has long sought such an amendment, saying that it would prevent multiple fraudulent voting in favor of the ruling party.
The voting reforms were one of the 12 political and economic demands voiced by the three opposition parties in June. The Armenian government’s effective refusal to meet most of them led the trio to hold a series of anti-government demonstrations this fall. President Serzh Sarkisian said after those protests last month that Sarkisian his cabinet will “once again address” those demands. The government went on to offer to negotiate with the opposition.
The HAK, the BHK and Zharangutyun dismissed the offer before introducing the bill later in November. They said it will test the Sarkisian administration’s stated commitment to dialogue with them.