The Armenian government on Thursday formally rejected the idea of holding the upcoming parliamentary elections only on the party-list basis, dismissing opposition claims that that would complicate vote rigging.
Dashnaktsutyun and Zharangutyun, the two opposition parties represented in the outgoing National Assembly, circulated relevant draft amendments to Armenia’s Electoral Code last month. The amendments are backed by other major opposition groups but opposed by the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
In accordance with the existing code, 90 of the 131 parliament seats were contested under the system of proportional representation in the last parliamentary elections. The remaining 41 deputies were elected in single-seat constituencies across the country.
Opposition leaders say voters are more vulnerable to bribes and intimidation when they pick individual candidates. The HHK denies this and says the single-mandate districts are needed because most Armenian parties do not have strong branches outside Yerevan.
Deputy Justice Minister Grigor Muradian made a similar point as he presented the government’s negative assessment of the opposition bill. “We believe that such a switch [to 100 percent proportional representation] would not be timely at this stage,”
he said, adding that the 41 seats enable “concrete deputies” to “represent interests of a certain segment of the population.”
“It is also evident that a parliamentary majority can be formed only by deputies elected under the proportional system as their number in the parliament is substantially larger than that of the deputies elected in single-mandate districts,” Muradian said during a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian.
Armen Martirosian, a senior Zharangutyun deputy, said that despite the government’s decision the opposition minority in the parliament will go ahead with its plans to force a debate on the issue on the parliament floor. He said the bill is likely to be put to the vote on February 28.
The HHK, which has a majority in the National Assembly, has already made clear that it will block the measure.