Opposition leader Nikol Pashinian has ruled out his Civil Contract party’s participation in negotiations on Armenia’s new Electoral Code planned by other opposition groups and the pro-government majority in parliament.
The code drafted by the Armenian government earlier this year has prompted serious concern from the country’s leading opposition groups. They say that it would facilitate fraud in next year’s parliamentary elections.
The opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) proposed earlier this month that the ruling Republican Party (HHK) start negotiations with the parliamentary opposition and civil society representatives in an attempt to reach mutual compromise on the electoral legislation. The HHK as well as non-governmental organizations involved in civil rights advocacy have essentially accepted the idea.
The talks are scheduled to get underway on Wednesday.
Pashinian was very skeptical about the planned talks, however, saying that the HHK will continue to reject major concessions to the opposition anyway.“We have no interest in participating in that format,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Sunday.
“We believe that we have all necessary levers to express our views and concerns and make proposals regarding the Electoral Code. So we don’t see ourselves in that format,” he said.
Pashinian also cited his “severed relationship” with the HAK leadership. The outspoken oppositionist was elected to the current National Assembly on the HAK ticket in 2012. He subsequently fell out with the party’s top leader, former President Levon Ter-Petrosian, and set up his own party.
Government officials and senior HHK members have so far rejected key safeguards against electoral fraud which the Armenian opposition and civic groups want to be enshrined in the Electoral Code. The most important of them are aimed at preventing multiple voting by government loyalists.
Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK lawmaker, said on Monday that President Serzh Sarkisian’s political allies are ready to discuss these proposals with their critics. “I think or at least hope that we will arrive at a common conclusion,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Sahakian said in that regard that the parliamentary majority is ready to accept an opposition proposal to install video cameras in all of Armenia’s 2,000 or so polling stations and record voting and counting of ballots there on election day. “If there are donor organizations [ready to finance the purchase of those cameras] then we are not against that idea,” he said.
Sahakian added, however, that the HHK objects to opposition demands for live online broadcasts of polling.