The Armenian government has decided to allocate a total of more than 1.8 billion drams, an equivalent of about $3.8 million, for the preparation and holding of a constitutional referendum due later this year.
The Central Election Commission will get the bulk of the funding, with 210 million drams (about $442,500) to be allocated to the police.
The government also endorsed the legislative initiative of a number of ruling Republican Party lawmakers under which citizens will also be able to vote in the December 6 referendum by producing only their ID card.
In that case, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian explained, it will be technically impossible to stamp the IDs.
Critics have long accused the Armenian authorities of using electoral fraud despite various measures, including electoral stains, introduced in the past. The new initiative is also likely to raise questions among opposition groups who are concerned about possible vote tampering.
But election officials in Armenia routinely dismiss the allegations, insisting that despite some technical problems that existed in the past, for example, with vanishing electoral ink, the measures have proved effective in reducing vote irregularities.
Meanwhile, the part of the opposition that does not see the need for changing the Constitution and suspects that President Serzh Sarkisian this way is trying to “perpetuate” his rule after he has to leave his current office in 2018, also protests the expenses that the taxpayer will incur as a result of the referendum.
Armen Martirosian, of the opposition Heritage party, said: “Since they started a process that is absolutely meaningless in terms of public interest, therefore the execution of this process is also a waste of money.”