Next year’s parliamentary elections in Armenia will be more democratic than any of the polls held there to date, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian told a coalition of Europe’s leading center-right parties on Tuesday.
Sarkisian mentioned the elections scheduled for May 2012 as he addressed the governing body of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Brussels.
“We are aiming to hold the most transparent and fair elections in the 20-year history of independent Armenia,” he said. “We want the upcoming elections to testify to our strong and irreversible commitment to democracy.”
A top aide to President Serzh Sarkisian (no relation) likewise said last week that the Armenian government is intent on holding “the best elections ever.” The president personally gave similar assurances in a speech at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) last June.
Armenia’s leading opposition forces shrug off such pledges, saying that the authorities will in fact be seeking to retain control of the National Assembly at any cost. They also dismiss as insignificant recent amendments to the Armenian Electoral Code which were largely praised by Council of Europe officials.
Tigran Sarkisian himself fuelled renewed opposition allegations of planned vote rigging late last month when he declared that the presidential Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) intends to deepen its dominance of the domestic political scene. He warned that political groups failing to cooperate with the HHK would “end up empty-handed.”
“The Republican Party is today the strongest political force in Armenia and it will not only retain its positions but also strengthen them,” he said.
The HHK, of which the premier is a member, and its two junior partners in the ruling coalition already control at least 100 seats in the current Armenian parliament. In a joint declaration signed in February, the three parties expressed confidence that they will gain even greater presence in the next National Assembly.
The opposition says this is a clear indication that the authorities have no plans to end Armenia’s culture of electoral fraud.
Speaking during what was his third visit to Brussels in less than a year, Tigran Sarkisian said the proper conduct of elections is only one of wide-ranging “institutional reforms” planned by his government. “Under the leadership of President Serzh Sarkisian, Armenia has the political will to accelerate the reform process,” he said.