By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Opposition parties represented in the Armenian parliament are pushing for fresh legal amendments in a concerted effort to offset their lack of control over electoral commissions ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
The draft amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code were on Monday sent to pro-presidential factions that control the National Assembly. The most important of them would give more powers to the proxies of election candidates -- a key element of the opposition strategy of precluding massive vote rigging.
The proxies would have almost the same rights as members of the precinct commissions. The opposition wants to give them the authority to prevent the presence of unauthorized personnel at polling stations, which has been a major problem in all Armenian elections. Also, commission officials would be explicitly banned from obstructing media coverage of the voting and counting of ballots.
The proposed changes were co-authored by 28 deputies representing political groups that make up the 16-party opposition coalition. Their unofficial coordinator, Shavarsh Kocharian, told RFE/RL that the opposition minority will on Tuesday start collecting signatures for placing its legislative initiative on the parliament agenda. He said the likelihood of its passage is “fairly high.”
The opposition controls only three out of nine seats in various-level election commissions. The six other members are appointed by President Robert Kocharian and the pro-presidential Republican, Dashnaktsutyun and Orinats Yerkir parties, giving him de facto control of the electoral process. Opposition leaders claim that Kocharian will use that advantage to try to manipulate the presidential ballot scheduled for February 19.