The pro-government majority in Armenia’s parliament said on Tuesday that it could make more concessions to the opposition despite pushing through a controversial bill that will regulate the conduct of next year’s parliamentary elections.
The National Assembly approved in the second reading the new Electoral Code drafted by the Armenian government one month after the collapse of negotiations which government representatives held with opposition leaders and civic activists.
The latter maintain that it does not provide for the proper conduct of the 2017 general elections that will predetermine who will govern Armenia after President Serzh Sarkisian serves out his second and final term in 2018.
During the talks, the opposition and civil society representatives proposed a set of measures which they say would make vote rigging much harder. The most important of the opposition amendments are meant to preclude multiple fraudulent voting by supporters of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK).
The government and the HHK rejected virtually all of those proposed safeguards, making instead other concessions dismissed as insignificant by the opposition. In particular, the government plans to install in all polling stations electronic machines that will check voters’ fingerprints and passports or ID cards.
Hovannes Sahakian, a senior HHK lawmaker, said the government side could amend the Electoral Code after the parliament passes it in the third and final reading later this week. “I don’t exclude that,” he said, commenting on the possibility of renewed talks with the opposition minority.
“We are ready to discuss that in the future as well and try to reach a consensus,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
“We may well restart negotiations at some point and try to reach a consensus,” confirmed Levon Zurabian, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), which initiated the talks held from March 30 through April 15.
But Zaruhi Postanjian, a parliamentarian representing another opposition party, Zharangutyun (Heritage), was far more skeptical, saying that the government will not agree to major concessions. “I don’t expect positive proposals from them,” she said.