Former President Robert Kocharian painted a grim picture of the Armenian parliamentary race on Monday, saying that its outcome is likely to be decided by vote buying.
He also avoided endorsing any of the five parties and four blocs running in the general elections scheduled for April 2.
In a fresh broadside at Armenia’s current leadership, Kocharian deplored a new and complex system of proportional representation that will be used in the upcoming polls. It will involve votes for not only parties or blocs but also their individual candidates nominated in a dozen electoral districts across the country.
Kocharian claimed that the individual races will be more important that than the contest among political groups running for parliament. “Thus, ideological struggle will play no role in these elections,” he said in written comments posted on his unofficial website, 2rd.am.
“It is evident that there will be a contest of wallets in an atmosphere of thuggishness,” charged the man who governed Armenia from 1998-2008. “Especially given the fact that many voters have found themselves in such a socioeconomic situation that in all likelihood they are not prepared to refuse money and will probably take part in the vote auction.”
The claim seemed primarily addressed to President Serzh Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) that has long been accused by the opposition of handing out bribes. Kocharian also faced opposition allegations of vote buying throughout his decade-long rule.
The HHK spokesman, Eduard Sharmazanov, disagreed with Kocharian’s negative assessment of the electoral system. Sharmazanov argued that Armenia’s new Electoral Code was enacted last fall as a result of a landmark agreement reached by the government and the parliamentary opposition. “We expect a solely ideological electoral struggle,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Kocharian has regularly criticized the Sarkisian administration in recent years. He reiterated on Monday that Armenia’s current transition to a parliamentary system of government initiated by his successor was a “big mistake” that will have “long-term negative consequences” for the country.