Armenia’s main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) party intends to cooperate with other political forces and civil society organizations in presenting joint demands regarding changes in the already published draft Electoral Code.
The HAK’s parliamentary leader Levon Zurabian said that their main demands regarding anti-fraud safeguards have not been addressed in the draft that was revealed by the Armenian government on Wednesday, more than a week after it was submitted to a Council of Europe body for expertise.
Zurabian believes that the joint push of opposition and civil society forces should focus on a few major demands.
“We don’t care whether there will be 13 electoral districts or 41, whether the ballot papers will be colored or not if the old vote rigging mechanism is preserved. Now our objective is to find these key proposals. The search is now on. We are in negotiations both with civil society organizations and other political forces for an ultimate package of proposals,” Zurabian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) on Thursday.
The HAK has presented four key demands for the new Electoral Code: post-election publication of the names of voters, verification of electoral rolls, use of electoral stains to preclude multiple voting and video recording at polling stations and adjacent areas on election days.
According to Zurabian, they are ready to discuss proposals of other parties and groups.
Naira Zohrabian, the leader of the second largest parliamentary party, Prosperous Armenia, said that they had proposals of their own, but were ready to discuss the HAK’s proposals, too. She, however, warned: “Let’s not regard one political party’s proposals to be ultimate, axiomatic proposals, let’s try to work by way of compromises.”
Deputy head of the opposition Heritage party Armen Martirosian said his party had not yet discussed issues connected with the electoral code. Earlier, the party indicated, however, that they did not want to have discussions with the authorities and were more inclined to work on the matter with international organizations.
The draft Electoral Code was quickly endorsed by the Armenian Cabinet of Ministers on Thursday, with Chief of Government Staff David Harutiunian praising the model proposed in the document.
Addressing concerns of some opposition groups that instead of an all-proportional voting system the new draft suggests its modified version, with more than one list of candidates to be presented by political parties and blocs in parliamentary elections, Harutiunian stressed that this model, in fact, will stimulate political parties to have stronger presence in the provinces. “This is very important in terms of the promotion of local government in the country,” he explained.
Armen Rustamian, a leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation that struck a power-sharing deal with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia last month, said that while the presented draft “takes into account” their proposals, there was still “room for work” in it.
“I’d advise [political parties] against making hasty statements. Let’s enter the process in a due manner, realizing what problems we face and bringing our solutions. We must accept the more logical and progressive solutions and include them in the draft,” he said.
Western governments and international organizations have urged Armenia to adopt its next electoral code in an inclusive manner. In his recent public remarks Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian also called for broad consensus in adopting electoral laws. He also emphasized that the new Electoral Code must be adopted by June, at least a year before the next parliamentary elections.