The National Assembly rejected on Wednesday a bill which Armenia’s leading opposition forces say is essential for the freedom and fairness of the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Only 30 members of the 131-seat assembly voted for draft amendments to the Electoral Code that would have required the authorities to hold the elections only on the party-list basis. They were put forward by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Zharangutyun (Heritage), the two opposition parties represented in the outgoing parliament.
Fifty-six other deputies voted against the bill. Most of them are from President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The HHK has repeatedly spoke out against the abolition of parliamentary elections held in 41 single-mandate constituencies.
Significantly, most deputies from the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the HHK’s junior partner in the governing coalition, attending the parliament session sided with the opposition.
The HHK and the government remained adamant in rejecting the proposed voting reform despite weeks of intense pressure from Dashnaktsutyun Zharangutyun and the Armenian National Congress (HAK). The three rival opposition groups joined forces to campaign for the bill’s passage.
Stepan Safarian, a Zharangutyun deputy, expressed hope that they will continue to work together in trying to preventing electoral fraud. He told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that they should be ready to “rapidly react and jointly act” in response to vote irregularities.
Armen Rustamian, a Dashnaktsutyun leader, agreed. He said the opposition forces should now try to win in at least some of the single-mandate districts that have until now been mainly swept by government-linked wealthy candidates.