The Armenian government and the pro-government majority in the National Assembly have expressed readiness to address serious opposition concerns about a new Electoral Code drafted by them.
The Armenian opposition as well as civil society representatives have criticized the proposed legislation, saying that it is aimed at helping President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party (HHK) rig next year’s parliamentary elections.
The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) proposed late last week that the ruling party open negotiations with four parliamentary opposition forces and as many civic organizations in an attempt to work out mutually acceptable changes in the draft Electoral Code. Davit Harutiunian, the chief of the government staff and main author of the code, said the authorities are ready to hold such talks.
Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK lawmaker, confirmed this on Monday, while wondering how the four non-partisan groups representing the civil society would be chosen and pointing to internal divisions within the parliamentary opposition. “But we have no problem with listening to their proposals,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
So far the government and the HHK have rejected concrete opposition demands relating to the conduct of the parliamentary elections due in April or May 2017. The opposition and civic groups are specifically seeking additional legal safeguards against illegal multiple voting by government backers. Those include the post-election publication of name of voters who actually cast ballots on polling stations.
“If those names are published, all citizens, journalists, local and international observers will be able to oversee voting and the kind of falsifications to which [the authorities] have resorted until now would be practically impossible,” Aram Manukian, an HAK leader, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service over the weekend.
Manukian claimed that the new Electoral Code drafted by the Sarkisian administration is “much worse” than the existing one and that the authorities would only agree to make minor changes in it. “This is a tactical ploy: to turn a very bad code into a simply bad one as a result of pressure from the public and the media,” he said.