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New Opposition Party Moves To Recruit Election Volunteers


Armenia - Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian speaks during the Armenian government's question-and-answer session in parliament, Yerevan, 3Feb2016.

Armenia - Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian speaks during the Armenian government's question-and-answer session in parliament, Yerevan, 3Feb2016.

A recently formed opposition party led by Nikol Pashinian hopes to recruit thousands of volunteers in an effort to ensure the proper conduct of next year’s parliamentary elections at polling stations across Armenia.

The party called Civil Contract has set itself the task of deploying three proxies in each of the country’s nearly 2,000 electoral precincts, saying that this would practically preclude serious fraud. Its leadership officially launched the recruitment campaign on Tuesday.

“Our and others’ experience has shown that if there is a trustworthy individual, who knows their rights and cannot be bribed, in a polling station, it’s very hard to commit fraud there,” said Lena Nazarian, a senior Civil Contract member. “And if there are three such individuals, then vote rigging will be impossible.”

“We believe that if we can cover the entire territory of Armenia -- all 2,000 precincts -- the ruling regime will find it difficult to unlawfully influence the voting process,” Arayik Harutiunian, the party’s nominal chairman, told a joint news conference.

Harutiunian said Civil Contract is optimistic about its chances of attracting 6,000 monitors, an ambitious target for a party that was officially created less than a year ago and is still taking shape.

Pashinian has repeatedly stated that Civil Contract will strive to act like an “institutional opposition” with a nationwide network of chapters and steadfast activists. He has said that the several thousand election proxies would be critical for avoiding the kind of mistakes which he believes have thwarted opposition campaigns for regime change in Armenia.

The party’s governing board is dominated by young civic activists who have previously had no partisan affiliations.

By contrast, Pashinian played a major role in former President Levon Ter-Petrosian’s 2007-2008 opposition movement that nearly scuttled a handover of power from outgoing President Robert Kocharian to Serzh Sarkisian. He spent about two years in prison on controversial charges stemming from a deadly suppression of Ter-Petrosian’s street protests held in the wake of the disputed February 2008 presidential election.

Pashinian, 40, decided to set up his own political force after falling out with Ter-Petrosian in 2012.

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