By Armen Zakarian
Armenia’s main electoral authority approved on Wednesday new campaign funding rules for the upcoming presidential elections, setting a roughly $100,000 ceiling on expenditures by each candidate.
Under the directive issued by the Central Election Commission (CEC), candidates can finance their campaign only from their special “pre-election fund” which can not collect more than 60 million drams ($103,000) in total contributions.
A single donation from private individuals and corporate entities can not exceed 200,000 and 500,000 drams respectively. Any extra contribution will be subject to confiscation, the CEC warned. Also, the presidential contenders will be banned from accepting money from foreign citizens, Armenian government agencies, charities and religious organizations.
The official campaign funding rules are believed to have been widely flouted during the previous Armenian elections, with very few candidates declaring their sources of revenue and expenditures in full. Many of them paid for campaign ads and other relevant activities in cash. It was frequently provided by various Diaspora-based groups and entrepreneurs.
Besides, Armenian businesspeople remain wary of openly supporting opposition candidates running for president or parliament for fear of government retribution.
It remains to be seen whether the new CEC regulations will be effectively enforced this time around. The current presidential race promises to be the most expensive in Armenia’s history, with President Robert Kocharian possessing far more financial resources than his challengers.