Armenian civic organizations downplayed on Monday major legal amendments worked out by the government and the opposition, saying that they are “a necessary but not sufficient condition” for democratic elections.
In a joint statement, six such groups welcomed the agreed changes to Armenia’s Electoral Code that are designed to prevent multiple voting by government loyalists. But they cautioned that the Armenian authorities have yet to display a “political will” to put them into practice.
The statement also said that the code still contains several provisions that “significantly endanger the holding of free and fair elections.” In particular, it cited a complicated system of proportional representation and the possibility of a second round of voting envisaged by the 700-page legislation passed by the Armenian parliament in May.
The civic groups are particularly concerned about controversial restrictions placed by the code on the presence and rights of observers and journalists in polling stations. Their repeal is the “minimum” requirement for creating public trust in the integrity of electoral processes in Armenia, they said.
Boris Navasardian of the Yerevan Press Club, one of the statement’s signatories, said the tentative deal reached by government and opposition representatives over the weekend marked “some progress” towards ending chronic vote rigging in the country.
“But that doesn’t mean yet that the Electoral Code is fully acceptable to the civil society,” Navasardian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Four representatives of the Armenian civil society were involved in negotiations between the government and three parliamentary opposition parties that resulted in a similar election-related accord in June. That deal subsequently fell through after the government cited logistical problems relating to the acquisition of new electronic equipment designed to prevent multiple voting.
The two sides agreed Saturday on an alternative anti-fraud mechanism after intensive negotiations held behind the closed doors. The four civic activists were not involved in those talks. Hence, their refusal to pre-sign the resulting deal together with senior representatives of the government and the three opposition parties.