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Opposition Party Urges Joint Push For Anti-Fraud Safeguards


Armenia - Levon Zurabian, the deputy chairman of the opposition Armenian National Congress, speaks at a news conference, Yerevan, 17Feb2016.

Armenia - Levon Zurabian, the deputy chairman of the opposition Armenian National Congress, speaks at a news conference, Yerevan, 17Feb2016.

The Armenian National Congress (HAK) on Wednesday urged other opposition parties and civic groups to jointly seek to force the government to include significant anti-fraud provisions in a new Electoral Code which is due to be enacted soon.

“You know the main scourges of our country: a corrupt political system, corruption in general, economic monopolies strangling our economy and many other problems,” Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s deputy chairman, told a news conference. “Nothing will change unless we eliminate the main source of these scourges. Namely, our inability to form a government through free and fair elections.”

Zurabian singled a measure that has long been championed by the Armenian opposition: post-election publication of the names of voters who cast ballots. Opposition leaders as well as many civic activists believe that this would practically preclude multiple voting by government loyalists, one of the most frequent forms of electoral fraud in the country.

In a joint statement released last week, about two dozen Armenian civil society groups said the authorities must finally agree to the proposed safeguard.

President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have for years opposed the idea, saying that it would breach the constitutionally guaranteed secrecy of ballots. The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission came up with a similar argument when it spoke out against the publication of voter lists several years ago.

Zurabian insisted that Western governments and other bodies are now more supportive of the idea. He said opposition forces and non-partisan groups will therefore stand a good chance of success if they join forces in pushing for its acceptance by the Sarkisian administration.

The authorities are currently working on a new Electoral Code which should have a significant impact on the conduct and outcome of Armenia’s next parliamentary elections due in May 2017. The head of the European Union Delegation in Yerevan, Piotr Switalski, said on Monday that the authorities have signaled their intention to ensure that the new code meets democratic standards and addresses opposition concerns.

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