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Opposition Parties Plan Joint Action On Election Bill


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.

Three major opposition parties represented in Armenia’s parliament said on Friday that they will work together in trying to secure significant changes in a new and controversial election bill drafted by the government.

Parliamentary leaders of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), Zharangutyun (Heritage) and National Revival (formerly Orinats Yerkir) parties said they are ready to jointly fight for amendments to the draft Electoral Code that could greatly influence the outcome of next year’s parliamentary elections.

The HAK’s Levon Zurabian said they will specifically demand legal safeguards against multiple voting by government loyalists. The most important of those measures is a post-election publication of the names of voters who actually cast ballots.

Both the government and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) have opposed the proposed safeguards until now.

In Zurabian’s words, Zharangutyun and National Revival also support HAK demands for the authorities to install video cameras in all polling stations and ensure live online broadcasts of the voting and counting processes. The three parties also agree that the parliamentary elections due in April or May 2017 must be held on a strictly party-list basis, he said.

Under the proposed Electoral Code, half of the parliament seats will be contested under a system similar to elections held in nationwide single-mandate constituencies where the ruling HHK has traditionally done well thanks to its control of government resources.

“We must publicize these demands as much as possible,” said Zaruhi Postanjian, a Zharangutyun deputy. “These [opposition] demands must not be voiced only in the National Assembly.”

The demands may also be backed by the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), a nominally opposition force that controls the second largest faction in the current National Assembly.

“Virtually all of the proposals made by our opposition partners are included in our package,” said BHK leader Naira Zohrabian. “But given the past experience, the BHK has decided not to enter into any … [multi-party cooperation] formats inhibiting our activities.”

The HHK controls the majority of parliament seats, putting it in a position to block any opposition motion. Still, its leaders have indicated that the ruling party is ready to consider opposition proposals regarding the Electoral Code.

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