Offering more concessions to the opposition, the Armenian authorities have expressed readiness to ensure live online broadcasts of voting in all polling stations and take other other measures against possible fraud in next year’s parliamentary elections.
A senior government official announced this late on Wednesday as he and other representatives of President Serzh Sarkisian resumed negotiations with opposition and civil society members on a new Electoral Code enacted by the authorities last month.
Opposition parties and civic groups insist that the code does not provide for the freedom and fairness of the general elections due in April 2017. During talks held with government representatives in March and April they proposed several amendments meant to preclude or seriously complicate irregularities.
The government rejected virtually all of those safeguards, making instead other concessions dismissed as insignificant by the opposition. Earlier this week, it signaled a softening of its position in an effort to drum up a more broad-based political support for the Electoral Code, which would presumably boost the legitimacy of the 2017 polls.
Speaking during the renewed late-night talks with the opposition, the chief of the government staff, Davit Harutiunian, listed four specific changes which the government is ready to make in the controversial code. One of them would give opposition parties greater access to the lists of voters who actually cast ballots in an election.
The opposition has long been seeking full information about those voters, saying that it would be used for exposing the allegedly widespread multiple voting by government loyalists.
The authorities have opposed publication of such information. Earlier this year, they decided instead to install in all polling stations electronic machines that will check voters’ identity through fingerprints and new, plastic ID cards possessed by many but not all voting-age Armenians.
Harutiunian said that before the 2017 elections the government will hand out such cards to those citizens who only have passports at present.
In another concession, Harutiunian said the government is prepared to install video cameras in all of the country’s 2,000 or so polling stations and ensure online live broadcasts of voting there. But he indicated that Armenia’s Western donors would have to pay for the purchase and installation of that equipment.
The Armenian National Congress (HAK), other parliamentary opposition parties and their civil society allies are due to officially respond to the government offer on Thursday evening. Still, the HAK’s parliamentary leader, Levon Zurabian, made clear that the proposed concessions are largely acceptable to his party even though they do not fully meet the opposition demands.
Zurabian suggested that the changes signaled by the government would “probably narrow the room for vote falsifications by 75 percent.”